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Garland denies bi-carb knowledge

Former stablehand Danny Garland and former trainer Trent Pennuto may both be recalled to the witness stand next week in light of the upcoming evidence to be given to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Monday by former float driver Greg Nelligan.

Both former employees of Aquanita Racing, who are each serving bans over the Aquanita 'top-ups' scandal, have consistently denied having any knowledge of or using illegal bi-carb syringes to 'top-up' horses before they were due to race.

On Thursday afternoon, midway through the second day of the appeals of four trainers into their bi-carb disqualifications, VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick adjourned the hearing until 10am on Monday, when both Greg Nelligan and his wife Denise are due to give evidence.

Lambrick told both Pennuto and Garland that although they were excused from the witness stand for the time being, they could be recalled for further questioning after the appearances of the Nelligans, who were given life bans by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board in May for their part in the scandal.

Both Pennuto and Garland were deemed as 'unfavourable witnesses' by Racing Victoria's legal counsel Jeff Gleeson, QC, in that their description of 'top-ups' was inconsistent with the meaning that had been advanced by stewards, that it referred to an illegal race-day administration of a bi-carb mix.

On Wednesday, Pennuto rejected the idea that 'top-ups' meant the illegal administration of bicarbonate on race day, claiming it was a term that could refer to topping-up water, feed or even bed shavings or extra work for the horse.

Garland, who took the stand on Thursday after being subpoenaed to give evidence, said his understanding of 'top-ups' were only feed and water. He said he often topped-up a horse's feed or water bucket if he thought they needed more or were told by the Aquanita trainers to do so.

After being read a text by Gleeson concerning giving horses' 'top-ups' from Pennuto to Greg Nelligan from December 2011, where Garland was referred to as 'The Moth', Garland said he did not understand what was being said.

"I've got no idea what they are talking about," he said.

"I can't be held accountable for other people's text messages."

Gleeson said it was difficult to believe that Garland, who has been involved in the racing industry as a stablehand or float driver for more than 20 years, had never discussed bi-carb with any of the four banned trainers - Robert Smerdon, Stuart Webb, Tony Vasil or Liam Birchley - even after charges were laid and then ultimately proven at the RAD Board.

Garland also denied having ever heard of bi-carb being used as an additive to some horses' feed bins before the 'one full day' treatment ban despite it being a common practice in some stables.

Justice Lambrick undertook a 'visit' to Flemington on Thursday to look over the stabling areas where RV stewards allege a horse trained by Birchley was treated illegally with a top-up of a mixture of bi-carb and Tripart paste on Melbourne Cup Day in 2015.

The visit came about following an application from Birchley's legal representative, Michael Grant-Taylor, who claimed the visit would prove how impractical a race-day treatment would be with such surveillance on hand.
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