'Tipsy' trainer can't recall sending texts to alleged doper
TRAINER Liam Birchley claims he has no recollection of sending text messages to notorious alleged doper Greg Nelligan requesting an illegal bicarbonate drench on Melbourne Cup eve in 2015, saying he was "pretty merry" after a drinking session.
Birchley told the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board he met friends for drinks at Ponyfish Island on Melbourne's Southbank and continued to revel near Crown Casino on November 2 - the afternoon phone records show Birchley and Nelligan communicated 11 times in 71 minutes.
Despite the frequency of the messages, Birchley said on Tuesday he couldn't recall the exchange.
Birchley faces three counts of being party to the use of banned "top-ups" between 2011 and 2015.
The Brisbane trainer denies ever using contraband "top0ups", insisting the term is used in almost every Australian stable as a reference to feeding and watering.
Questioned on Tuesday by legal advocate Michael Grant Taylor, Birchley said he could not remember texting Nelligan.
Racing Victoria stewards charged Birchley after extracting thousands of texts from Nelligan's mobile.
"Can u org a top up for tomorrow pls," Birchley texted Nelligan on Cup eve.
Nelligan responded: "Roberts (trainer Robert Smerdon) ordered 5, I'll need a wheelbarrow to carry them all."
Birchley messages: "You've got deep pockets."
Nelligan then appears to reference doping two horses due to run in the Cup, texting: "I'll be walking funny, got two cup horses as well. Don't tell Robert."
Birchley: "Mercenary!" before asking: "Which ones we backing."
Nelligan: "Robert had me do one for the guy with the cup horses a few years ago so it's not out of the circle of trust but I still don't tell him."
Birchley saddled Pop 'n' Scotch at the 2015 Cup meeting. It finished ninth of 18
Interviewed by RV stewards, Birchley claimed last year that the use sodium bicarbonate "top-ups" was "stupid" and ridiculous.
Birchley has indicated he intends pleading not guilty to the charges.
He is one of eight figures charged with breaching a slew of rules - mostly relating to illegal race day treatments - from 2010 until 2017.
Smerdon, Tony Vasil, Stuart Webb, Trent Pennuto, Danny Garland, Greg and Denise Nelligan are the others.