By Jon Lees
Australia: Australia’s champion jump jockey Steven Pateman has been disqualified for three years after he was found to have administered cobalt to one of the horses he trains.
Pateman, 37, received the mandatory sentence along with his wife Jess Barton after a drug test on the horse Sir Walter Scott, taken before a race at Coleraine in 2017, returned a cobalt reading that was 12 times above the allowed threshold.
Pateman is Australia’s winningmost jockey, having partnered 387 winners in a country where there are fewer than 100 jumps races a year.
He has ridden winners in Ireland, the United States and New Zealand and on his website lists Willie Mullins, Philip Hobbs and Charlie Egerton as trainers he has worked for in Europe.
Since 2016 Pateman has been training a small team of jumpers in Geelong while continuing as a leading jump jockey.
The disqualifications were announced by Racing Victoria’s Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board on Thursday after submissions had been considered from Pateman and Barton that they were suffering mental impairment at the time of the offence.
However the panel rejected the arguments, stating there was no evidence that mental health was an issue during the investigation or hearing.
At the outset of the investigation the pair had admitted guilt, which Pateman subsequently claimed was the result of “drunkenness, hangover, tiredness, an almost overwhelming desire to get off the telephone and the like”. But they pleaded not guilty at their hearing.
The panel said: “Since that initial telephone discussion with the Stewards on 13 October 2017, Mr Pateman has continued in his role as a trainer. Further, and perhaps more importantly, he has continued to be Victoria’s, and Australia’s, leading jumps jockey.
“He has ridden, and ridden very successfully, in the biggest carnivals and biggest races. There has been no allegation of interference with or a downturn in his obviously great skill and judgement.”
It added: “On the balance of probabilities, we are not satisfied that either Mr Pateman or Ms Barton suffer from impaired mental functioning and did so at the time of the offence.”
The pair’s bans are set to start immediately but Pateman said he would appeal and apply for a stay of suspension.