Four Aquanita employees, including Robert Smerdon, agree to stand down

Four employees of Aquanita Racing, including one of Australia's top trainers, Robert Smerdon, on Friday agreed to stand down after being implicated in a massive doping scandal.

Smerdon, fellow trainer Stuart Webb and Aquanita employees Daniel Garland and Denise Nelligan, have agreed to stand down, pending the inquiry by the Victorian Racing and Disciplinary Appeals Board.

Tony Vasil, Liam Birchley and Aquanita employee Greg Nelligan have been issued notices to show cause why they should remain actively involved in the industry.

Trainer Trent Pennuto, also included in the charges, was not part of the show-cause notices as he is serving disqualification after being found guilty of pre-race medication with a stomach tube of alkalising agents in August last year.

"It is important to say that all of those charged by stewards on Tuesday have a presumption of innocence, however given the serious nature of the charges the stewards believe this is an appropriate course of action for the Aquanita personnel to have taken," Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson said.

"Under the Australian rules of racing, the registered and licensed personnel facing charges can be stood down pending a hearing if their continued participation in racing might pose an unacceptable risk to, prejudice or undermine the image, interests or integrity of racing.

"The stewards have made no determinations concerning the show cause notices involving Mr Vasil, Mr Birchley and Mr Nelligan and they will be given the full opportunity to put submissions to the Stewards in regards to their own situations."

Smerdon has more than 100 horses in work and thousands of owners on his books. Fairfax Media understands that many of Smerdon's clients will look outside of Aquanita for a new trainer.

Australian racing has been rocked by the charges levelled against the eight Aquanita employees.

On Tuesday Racing Victoria integrity officers issued 250 charges against them.

Smerdon faces 115 charges of race-day administration dating to 2010. Stablehand Greg Nelligan had 123 charges levelled at him.

The investigation began after the alleged race-day treatment at Flemington on Turnbull Stakes day of the Smerdon-trained Lovani.

It was alleged that Aquanita staff were observed taking Lovani into the swabbing stall at Flemington and administering an oral substance to the mouth of the horse.

Lovani has changed stable and is now being prepared by Greg Widdup in Sydney.

This story Four Aquanita employees, including Robert Smerdon, agree to stand down first appeared on Brisbane Times.