The number of random pre-race drugs tests carried out on racehorses in Britain will increase this season, the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA) has confirmed.

But HRA spokesman Paul Struthers was unable to give H&H details of when, where and how frequently the testing would take place, citing “security” reasons.

The announcement came after HRA security director Paul Scotney addressed the AGM of the National Trainers’ Federation (NTF) in February. Mr Scotney said he believed some trainers were using performance-enhancing drugs unlikely to show up in post-race testing.

It is thought Mr Scotney was referring to the practice of “milkshaking”, thought to have been widespread in America for several years. Milkshaking involves passing alkaline substances into a horse’s stomach via a tube, to suppress the build-up of lactic acid and thereby delay the onset of fatigue when racing.

But to date there is no evidence that milkshakes are being used in the UK and some trainers have voiced their concerns over horses being blood tested just hours before racing.

NTF chief executive Rupert Arnold told H&H: “We support all moves to ensure trainers are operating on a level playing field, but this is basically a pre-emptive strike — we have seen no evidence of substance misuse.”

The move was blasted by leading flat trainer and vet Mark Johnston.

“This is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” he told H&H. “There’s no evidence that milkshakes are a problem here. I think the HRA is more concerned about pandering to foreign racing jurisdictions than our own.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (12 April, ’07)