JOHN Nikolic, the brother of disgraced jockey Danny Nikolic, has been warned off Australian racetracks for nine months after he admitted to treating Wonderful Jester with a prohibited substance moments before the horse landed a betting plunge at Murwillumbah in August.

BRAD DAVIDSON reports for NEWS LIMITED that Nikolic, a former Gold Coast trainer-turned-punter, admitted on Thursday to rubbing penetrene, a non-performance enhancing product, with an absorbent pad to “both sides of (Wonderful Jester’s) neck, front of his chest, over his legs and then his nose” in the stabling area shortly before the horse won a race at Murwillumbah on August 3.

Nikolic, whose wife Yvette is a part-owner of Wonderful Jester, then threw the pad over the fence near the stabling area before it was retrieved by a rival trainer and presented to stewards after Wonderful Jester had won the race.

The absorbent pad used to treat the horse with penetrene also tested positive to cocaine but a urine and nasal sample on Wonderful Jester after the race both returned negatives to cocaine.

Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy, who flew to the Gold Coast for the hearing, said they could not establish the origin of the cocaine positive test on the pad and that it “could have come from a number of sources”.

Nikolic said he had no idea how the pad tested positive to cocaine.

“Cocaine is pretty much everywhere these days and even on banknotes and it certainly didn’t come from me,” he said.

Wonderful Jester’s Gold Coast trainer Lisa Garrett and her stablehand Paul Rolfe, who was present at Murwillumbah on August 3, also had no idea how the pad could have returned a positive sample to cocaine.

Wonderful Jester firmed from $8 to $3 on course before he won by 1 ¾ lengths in the benchmark 54 handicap.

Murrihy said penetrene “in all fairness would not produce an improved performance” and is used to treat injuries by aiding blood flow to damaged muscles. But Nikolic was found guilty of treating a horse on race day, which carries a minimum six-month ban.

Stewards took into account Nikolic’s poor record, which included two previous positive swabs, when handing down the nine-month disqualification.

Nikolic received a 12-month ban in April last year after the same horse returned a positive to prohibitive substance gabapentin in a race at Murwillumbah on January 5, 2014 when Nikolic trained it.

Nikolic claims he had been using penetrene on horses for years and didn’t know he was breaking the law at Murwillumbah.

“I generally did not think it counted as race day treatment,” he said. “If I was trying to be covert wouldn’t I have gone to the swabbing box or wash bay or around the back?

“But I (applied the penetrene) in the open.”

Murrihy confirmed there had been “substantial stable inspired support” on Wonderful Jester in the race in question although it did not relate to Thursday’s findings.

Wonderful Jester had also had been well supported in previous runs throughout its career for mixed results.

Murrihy queried Nikolic and Garrett about the improved performance of Wonderful Jester after he was beaten by an average 8.25 lengths at his past four starts before his Murwillumbah win.

Garrett said she had changed the horse’s work and kept him fresh for the Murwillumbah race instead of working him hard on the track as she did previously.

Garrett, who only got out of hospital the night before the race in question, was not present at Murwillumbah racecourse on August 3 and said she knew nothing about Nikolic’s intentions to treat the horse with penetrene before the race.

She was fined $200 for allowing an unlicensed person (Nikolic) to saddle a horse.

Rolfe was fined $2000 for providing false evidence on August 3 and $1000 for bringing penetrene to Murwillumbah racecourse.

Rolfe originally told stewards he was the one who applied the penetrene to Wonderful Jester before the race. He changed his statement on Thursday, claiming he did not apply the penetrene and that he panicked and was intimidated by Nikolic.

Nikolic backed up Rolfe’s claims and said “he knew I had been in trouble before and he had good intentions”.

Nikolic, who was also fined $200 for saddling a horse as an unlicensed person, told Rolfe to bring penetrene to Murwillumbah on August 3. Nikolic’s ban expires on August 12, 2016.