JC / Railbird


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.


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.”

Answers Wanted

Now that the first shock over the news that 11 Godolphin racehorses turned up positive for steroids in out-of-competition testing conducted by the British Horseracing Authority has passed, Greg Wood has questions:

Assuming that Zarooni was not creeping around the yard after midnight with a rucksack full of syringes, who was helping him? Was a vet — who would fall outside the licensing authority of the BHA — involved, as was the case with Nicky Henderson and the Moonlit Path affair in 2009? And who was supplying the steroids for what was, even if it was inadvertent, such a significant doping programme? Where were the drugs stored and who knew that they were there? How many other horses have been given steroids at Moulton Paddocks since Zarooni took charge in 2010?

All the questions are hugely embarrassing for Sheikh Mohammed. “I have made a catastrophic error,” said trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni. You can read his words as an admission of ignorance, or betrayal.

2:30 PM Addendum: “For Sheikh Mohammed, the mortification could not have been greater had they found a fridge full of cobra venom.”

On the Move

Rachel Alexandra to trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn (as expected) … West Side Bernie to Godolphin (a mild suprise).