The feel-good story of Darren Weir’s rapid rise from Victorian country trainer to the biggest in Australia has been obliterated by his even swifter fall from grace,
A week ago, Weir was getting his horses ready for the autumn carnival in which he would be a major player.
On Wednesday his career was effectively over when he was handed a four-year disqualification for illegal jiggers found on his licensed premises.
The penalty comes from racing authorities but with police involved in the search and seizure of the electrical devices, there may be more to come.
Jiggers are outlawed in racing on animal welfare grounds.
In other cases they have been used in training usually in conjunction with a whip then the actions simulated on race day so the horse thinks it is about to receive an electric shock.
There has been no evidence in the Weir case as to why he had them or if he used them, just that he possessed them which is also against the rules.
The 48-year-old has been around horses all his life and in racing for most of it.
Weir comes from Berriwillock in the Mallee district of country Victoria, a hamlet listed as having a population of 184.
In November 2015 that swelled as the town celebrated a Melbourne Cup win like no other.
The Weir-trained Prince Of Penzance had won Australia’s most famous race and the Berriwillock locals spruced up and re-opened the pub and partied like they had not done for years.
Weir had brought attention to an area doing it tough and his story became folklore.
He had left school at 15 to work as a horse-breaker, track rider and farrier as he learned the art of being a trainer.
In 1995 he took out a licence as an owner-trainer at Stawell and eventually grew big enough to move to Ballarat in 2001.
By this year, he had training bases at Ballarat, Warrnambool and Baringhup and more than 600 horses on his books, making him Australia’s biggest trainer.
Weir won his first of five Melbourne premierships in the 2013/14 season.
In 2016/17 he became the first to train more than 400 Australian winners, winning 449 races, surpassing that the following season with 491 victories for prize money of more than $31 million
Halfway through this season, it appears Weir will win another title with 93 metropolitan winners in Victoria, 61 more than his nearest rival, the Lindsay Park stable.
Weir has had his run-ins with stewards over the years for offences usually dealt with by fines, the biggest $7000 for a horse returning a positive swab to a prohibited substance.
The walls caved in last Wednesday when his properties were raided.
Weir is not the only casualty with many small trainers at Ballarat supplementing their income by pre-training his horses to get them ready to race.
Most of Weir’s high-profile horses have already been moved on, mostly to big trainers such as Lindsay Park headed by David Hayes, premier Sydney trainer Chris Waller and the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace partnership.
There is speculation Maher and Eustace will move into Weir’s Forest Lodge at Ballarat and in so doing, retain many of his staff.
At Wednesday’s disciplinary hearing, Weir pleaded no contest through his lawyer, did not give evidence and was silent as he left with the whys and wherefores now subject to speculation rather than explanation.
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