JC / Railbird


An American at Ascot

Regardless of how Animal Kingdom does in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot on Tuesday, his appearance is a win for American racing, writes Pat Cummings:

The fact that an intact Kentucky Derby winner is still racing, and successfully, is a massive boost to American racing, whether he’s been in America or not. The son of brilliant turf miler Leroidesanimaux is a winner on dirt, turf, and all-weather, and a G1 winner on two of those surfaces, while G1 placed on grass. While having started only eleven times in his career, it’s the last four starts on his ledger, from 2012 and 2013, that stand out – mostly because Kentucky Derby winners are so rarely seen around, let alone in the winner’s circle, in the years after their Derby tally.

The Queen Ann will be Animal Kingdom’s final race.

He went out for his last gallop this morning.

6/18/13 Update: Oh, too bad — an 11th place finish wasn’t the wished for exit, but the horse has delivered in enough big races — across continents and racing surfaces and years — for there to be no regrets. Thanks for the memories, Animal Kingdom. (Watch the Queen Anne Stakes replay.)

6/19/13 Addendum: Sure, blame the filly: “I could see him transform from a focused competitor to a sex machine” (PDF). One whiff of Elusive Kate in the paddock, and Animal Kingdom’s racing career was over, his stud career begun.

Tarnished Encke

The British Horseracing Authority released on Monday the results of tests done on all Godolphin-owned racehorses based in Newmarket, revealing that seven additional horses trained by the now-suspended Mahmood al Zarooni turned up positive for steroids — including the 2012 St. Leger winner Encke. That name atop the list was explosive, immediately raising the question of whether Camelot, second in the St. Leger, lost the Triple Crown to a horse who may have been treated with banned substances. Encke tested clean before and after the race last September, but the question will linger, writes Greg Wood:

And, thanks to the poisonous nature of anabolic steroids, which leave suspicions lingering when all traces of the drug have gone, it is a question that will probably never have an answer.

For Paul Hayward, Encke’s positive:

is a disaster all by itself. It casts doubt on a whole season of Flat racing and requires an asterisk to be placed next to the final Classic of 2012.

Encke will not be disqualified, said the BHA. “There is absolutely no evidence at all that [he] was gaining benefit from prohibited substances in the St Leger.”

It’s a determination that must be accepted, unless new details emerge about Zarooni’s operation at Moulton Paddocks (the investigation is ongoing).

American racing fans know the uncertainty, even if the situations are different: Big Brown’s 2008 run for the Triple Crown, and his baffling performance in the Belmont Stakes, was also clouded by the issue of (then legal) steroids.

Nobody’s Clean

Responding to the British turf press, which has become somewhat obsessed with the idea — in the wake of the Zarooni steroids scandal that shook their island nation last week — that Australian raiders on ‘roids might have, or might in the future, run off with Royal Ascot prizes, trainer Peter Moody denied that undefeated Black Caviar was treated with steroids before she won the 2012 Golden Jubilee Stakes or at any other time in her illustrious career, and then dragged in America to make a point:

Moody took a swipe at “lilywhite” English trainers.

“They bang on about steroids but they are the first to use Lasix when they campaign horses in the US,” he said.

Lasix is an anti-bleeding drug outlawed everywhere bar some states in the US.

“Maybe the Poms might start looking at themselves rather than looking at us,” he said.

Moody isn’t the only Australian trainer getting fed up with the chatter.

(Link to Moody’s comments via @claimsfive.)


Trainer Mahmood al Zarooni’s swift downfall may reverberate beyond Britain:

“We will certainly be using this case as an opportunity to put the consistent use of drugs internationally back on the agenda of the IFHA.”

Pull the Pocket is already contrasting the resolve of the British Horseracing Authority and Godolphin to get to the bottom of what was going on at Moulton Paddocks under Zarooni with the California Horse Racing Board’s response to unexplained sudden cardiac death in racehorses.

More on the Zarooni case collected here.

4/28/13 Addendum: Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, reacting to the Godolphin scandal, also calls for the IFHA to consider a worldwide ban on steroid use. Anabolic steroids are still legal in Australia and some other jurisdictions, a fact taking on more prominence with horses such as Black Caviar’s stakes-winning half-brother All Too Hard expected to ship to Britain for the Royal Ascot meeting in June. “After this past week’s events,” writes Sue Montgomery, “his presence may be an uncomfortable reminder that the drugs playing field for horses is not level worldwide.”

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