IN THE NEWS: On MAR 14, 2017
A FORMER Rockhampton thoroughbred horse trainer has been suspended for a year after a steward saw him 'beating a horse around the head and body with a length of PVC piping' at the Ooralea Racecourse, Mackay on March 7.
It is the harshest penalty for a thoroughbred trainer handed down by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission - the commission that found local trainer Mark Cochrane 'guilty of striking an animal in his care' - since it was formed on July 1, 2016.
The racing commission was inquiring into allegations that Mr Cochrane had mistreated the thoroughbred racehorse, Stone Philosopher, which has not been registered with Racing Australia.
A statement issued by the commission on Monday said Mr Cochrane, formerly of Berserker, would "pay the price" after the commission acted quickly on the claims he had mistreated a racehorse.
In the statement, Commissioner Ross Barnett said a senior stipendiary steward had seen Mr Cochrane 'beating the horse', Stone Philosopher, around the head and body with a length of PVC piping at Mackay's Ooralea Racecourse, on March 7.
"This type of behaviour towards racing animals is not acceptable, and stewards have acted immediately to punish this trainer for his actions," Mr Barnett said.
"Incidents of this type are relatively rare, most racing industry participants treat their animals with the highest level of care and respect at all times.
"Rare occasions like this disappoint the industry majority who are passionate about animal welfare.
"The QRIC has acted swiftly and Mr Cochrane will pay the price for mistreating this racehorse."
It is the harshest penalty the commission has handed down to a thoroughbred trainer of the 53 inquiries it has had since it came into being in July 2016.
The commission was created as a result of the State Government inquiry into the dog baiting scandal in the greyhound industry.
Another thoroughbred trainer, Graham Pollock, had received two 12-month suspensions for failing to properly feed eight thoroughbred horses, but served those sentences at the same time and, unlike Mr Cochrane, who will sit out for a year, he wasn't fined.
The majority of the suspensions handed out by the commission so far have been small, often explaining the decision was taking into account the trainer's ability to earn a living.
Mackay Turf Club chairman Lou Kinsey hadn't seen the stewards' report into Mr Cochrane's charges yesterday, or witnessed it, but said if the incident was true, it was isolated.
He added the penalty appeared harsh. "Most horses are treated as valuable animals and most trainers love horses, on top of that, I think they have come down on Mr Cochrane particularly hard but, again, I haven't seen the charges," he said.
"I have never seen anything, or a cruelty case in the 31 years I have been at the Mackay Turf Club," Mr Kinsey said. "Almost 100% of horses are well cared for because they are very expensive."
Mr Cochrane doesn't appear to have run a horse since December 31 at Rockhampton where his horse, Pursuit of Happiness, finished second, winning $2400; on December 3 it won $1000 for a third place in Townsville.
The Commissioner said in the statement further matters had also been heard relating to two counts of Mr Cochrane "failing to attend an inquiry at the direction of a steward and the failure to ensure a horse was led prior to sunrise by a person wearing an approved reflective vest".
Mr Barnett said stewards found Mr Cochrane guilty of all the charges, fined him $400 and suspended his licence to train thoroughbred horses for one year.
"Mr Cochrane was given five business days to transfer the horses in his care and he was made aware of his rights of appeal," he said.
Repeated attempts to contact Mr Cochrane for comment were unsuccessful.