The British Horseracing Authority said on Monday that trainers with runners at the valuable Future Champions meeting at Newmarket this weekend will be offered elective, fast-tracked dope tests on their horses if they have any concerns that a post-race test could be positive for the banned substance zilpaterol.
Zilpaterol, a synthetic drug for fattening beef cattle before slaughter, has an anabolic effect and could act as a performance-enhancer in thoroughbreds. It is prohibited at all times under the Rules of Racing.
Traces of zilpaterol were initially detected in urine samples from racehorses in France last week and quickly linked to products made by the company Gain Equine Nutrition.
Ireland’s champion trainer, Aidan O’Brien, and his sons, Joseph and Donnacha, all of whom had used Gain products to feed their horses, were forced to withdraw fancied runners from Longchamp’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe card on Sunday after independent tests proved positive for the drug.
The BHA’s move is aimed at avoiding any repeat of the spate of withdrawals in Paris when attention moves to the Rowley Mile in Newmarket this weekend. Aidan O’Brien’s entries at the two-day meeting include St Mark’s Basilica, who was scratched from Sunday’s Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes, as well as Battleground, the winner of the Group Two Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in July and the 6-1 third-favourite for Saturday’s race in early betting.
In an update to trainers on Monday evening, the BHA said that elective tests will be “processed and prioritised in order of race entry”, and that while zilpaterol “is a category A prohibited substance” and trainers are strictly liable for all banned drugs in a horse’s system, “samples submitted will not be used by the BHA for regulatory purposes”. As a result, “any horse that returns a positive test for zilpaterol following an approved elective test only will not be subject to any further sanction or a stand-down period.”
Since the elective tests could take up to three days to process, trainers have also been advised to consider withdrawing any horses that have been fed with Gain products if they are declared to run in Britain on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The BHA first alerted Britain’s 600 licensed trainers to the possible issue with Gain products on Friday evening, advising them to cease using all Gain products immediately and offering to refund entry fees for any horses withdrawn from races at the weekend as a result of fears over possible contamination. Roger Varian, who used Gain at his Newmarket yard, scratched seven runners at three different meetings as a result.
In addition to offering elective tests, the BHA will also work with trainers who have fed Gain to their horses in an attempt to establish a withdrawal time for the drug in horses.
Zilpaterol is banned from the farming industry in EU countries but widely used in the United States for fattening cattle, where its use must be stopped no later than 72 hours before slaughter to avoid residues remaining in the carcass. There is no certainty about how long it would remain in a horse’s system, however, and a programme of elective tests could give the regulator a much clearer idea.
Tuesday’s best bets, by Chris Cook
Leicester will provide a serious test, if a GoingStick reading of 4.1 is any guide, but Ainsdale (2.50) appears as well placed to cope as any runner on the card. He won three times in three weeks last October, ploughing through soft or heavy going on each occasion, and his belated return to action 10 days ago should have put him right for this.
He was short of pace for that relatively valuable Saturday TV race but still put up a fair effort in fourth. This looks move inviting and a few of his rivals may be feeling by halfway that they’ve done enough for the year. He was proving popular overnight at 100-30.
Ivan Furtado has two good chances, starting with Inexes (3.50) at 3-1 in a sprint handicap. The veteran has dropped back to the mark from which he won over course and distance on similar ground last year and there was renewed promise last time.
Meanwhile at Lingfield, Furtado fields California Lad (5.10), a first-timer for him after coming over from a low-profile Irish yard. On the pick of his form, he would be thrown in here and I’m happy to take the chance that Furtado has revived him, now that he has drifted back to 5-1 after being priced up very conservatively at first.