Champion Victorian trainer Darren Weir has been charged by Racing Victoria over electronic devices found in his stable during police raids on Wednesday.
Stewards have also ordered Weir to show cause why he should be allowed to continue his operation. Racing NSW issued the racehorse trainer with a similar show cause notice on Thursday.
Owners of some of Weir’s 600 horses have begun moving them to other stables as the champion trainer fights for his career.
The stewards also ordered the withdrawal of all Weir’s entries from meetings over the weekend, including feature race runners at Caulfield on Saturday.
Racing Victoria stewards issued the charges against Weir on Friday, two days after they and officers from Victoria Police’s sports integrity unit raided his stables at Warrnambool and Ballarat.
Weir’s assistant, licensed trainer Jarrod McLean, has also been charged and issued the same show cause notice. A stewards’ hearing is scheduled for later on Friday.
Weir, 48, also faced the Racing Victoria stewards on Thursday night. McLean and a third man, Tyson Kermond, were also ordered to appear at the same hearing.
The police raids on Weir’s Victorian properties allegedly uncovered four taser-like “jiggers”. Weir, McLean and Kermond were arrested, questioned and released without charge on Wednesday after the raids.
As well as the jiggers, police allegedly found an unregistered firearm and a small amount of suspected cocaine.
A jigger is usually a small electrical device used in conjunction with a whip to stimulate a horse to run faster. It is used in training and the action is simulated on race day so the horse believes it is about to be shocked.
Police say the allegations include obtaining financial advantage by deception, engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome and use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes, as well as animal cruelty.
Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson addressed the scandal on Friday night.
“I understand that there are innocent parties impacted by this and I am sympathetic to the owners within Mr Weir’s and Mr McLean’s stables that have been affected by the decisions made today, however the integrity of the sport and its reputation must come first,” he said in a statement.
“The core responsibility of Racing Victoria is to protect the integrity of the sport and to enforce the Australian Rules of Racing, ensuring both a level playing field for all and the health and welfare of horses competing in Victorian races. This is a responsibility that we take seriously and one that requires important decisions to be made.”
Weir is Australia’s most successful trainer and prepared 2015 Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance, ridden by Michelle Payne.
Overnight on Thursday, Payne, the first female jockey to win the Cup, issued a statement saying she had not been part of the Weir stable for more than 18 months and had never been aware of or witnessed illegal activity.
Several Weir-trained horses are due to race in Victoria at the weekend. Those who were scheduled to race at Moonee Valley on Friday night were scratched, by order of Racing Victoria’s stewards, late on Friday afternoon.
Weir has more than 600 horses on his books and employs dozens of people at his stables.