Trainer fined £2,000 after Cheltenham Festival favourite fails drug test

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  • Leading trainer Alan King has been fined £2,000 after one of his Cheltenham Festival runners tested positive for a banned substance.

    Yanworth, who was sent off 2-1 favourite in the Champion Hurdle on 14 March, tested positive for synthetic corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide (TCA) after finishing seventh in the race.

    Mr King admitted the rule breach and asked the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) disciplinary panel to hold its enquiry in his absence, which took place on 6 July.

    The panel heard the likely source of the drug was through injections into the horse’s joints, on 2 and 22 February.

    While TCA is permitted for horses in training, it must not be present in a horse’s system on raceday.

    It has a 14-day withdrawal time, but the BHA stresses there is “no published detection time”.

    The seven-year-old gelding won at Wincanton on 18 February, when he returned a negative test.

    The panel also questioned why Mr King did not opt for elective testing ahead of the horse’s run at Cheltenham.

    The cost of this is £123.92 (plus VAT) which “would not break the bank” and has a turnaround time of 24 hours.

    In October 2015, another horse trained by Mr King also tested positive for TCA.

    Midnight Cataria failed a drug test after finishing second in a race at Kempton — 51 days after the substance was given.

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    A statement on behalf of Mr King given at the enquiry into Yanworth’s case said he relied on the “professional judgement of the vets treating the horse”.

    It added that elective testing was discussed by the vets, but was “not considered relevant”.

    The panel took into consideration the Midnight Cataria case and concluded that the decision “not to pursue elective testing was an unreasonable one in all the circumstances”.

    Mr King was fined £2,000 and Yanworth was disqualified from the race.

    “It is recognised that the use of corticosteroids such as Adcortyl will frequently be necessary on veterinary advice for the welfare of a horse,” the panel concluded.

    What matters is the taking of proper precautions to ensure that it does not remain in a horse’s system at the time of a racing engagement.

    “Given the uncertainties over survival times of corticosteroids which have come to general knowledge in recent years, the recourse to elective testing seems to the panel a wiser path to follow.”

    H&H has contacted Mr King for comment.

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