GREG Nelligan admits punting was a motivation to dope hundreds of horses under the nose of stewards after claiming he was never paid by trainers to cheat.
In the witness box for a second day at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the former float driver said he was only a “$50 punter”, rejecting accusations betting was his primary motive.
Nelligan, who is disqualified for life for using sodium bicarbonate and Tripart “top-ups” on horses at the races, claimed he was instead driven by his friendship with banned trainer Robert Smerdon.
“I ranked my friendship with Mr Smerdon first, punting was something I was never concerned about,” Nelligan said.
“I’m not a big enough punter to make a difference in my mind.
“Betting, to me, wasn’t a big factor.
“If I was asked to do it (dope), I would do it.
“Sometimes I wouldn’t go through with it.”
Nelligan said he was unaware of the punting habits of any of the other disqualified parties, including Smerdon.
“He never spoke to me about his betting,” Nelligan said.
“I’d ask if he thought it (a horse) could win and I’d have a small bet.
“I just enjoyed the punt. Not every day, not most days.
“I may bet five days in a row, then not bet for two weeks.”
Asked whether Geelong trainer Kelvin Bourke was in the notorious circle of trust, Nelligan said: “I don’t recall.”
Questioned on why he had a text exchange with Bourke after a Tony Vasil horse won and references to “only small cheating”, Nelligan struggled to remember the conversation.
Nelligan, his wife Denise and Smerdon are disqualified for life.
Stuart Webb (four years), Tony Vasil (three), Trent Pennuto (two), Danny Garland (one) and Liam Birchley (one) are also disqualified.
Smerdon, Webb, Vasil and Birchley are appealing bans imposed by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board at VCAT.
Again prefacing most of his answers with “I claim that the answer I am about to give may tend to incriminate me”, Nelligan insisted he had “topped-up” horses on only about 20 occasions with performance-enhancing sodium bicarbonate and Tripart paste.
The Nelligans, Pennuto and Garland are not appealing their penalties.
The hearing continues with both Nelligans, Pennuto and Garland expected to give evidence today.