In an affair as sorry and sordid as any Dick Francis plot, the jump jockey turned trainer David Flood was yesterday warned off for two years after being found guilty of four charges relating to the unauthorised administration of a painkiller to a horse before Newmarket races last July. The penalty, imposed after an inquiry by the Jockey Club's disciplinary panel, starts a week today. Hugh Taylor, assistant to Flood at the time of the offence, was found guilty on three counts and banned for nine months.
The horse in question, Mossman Gorge, had been an intended runner in the second race on the summer course on 24 July, but was withdrawn by the stewards after a veterinary technician, routinely scanning the animal's identity microchip, spotted signs of a recent intravenous injection, and alerted the duty vet at the track. A bead of blood on Mossmann Gorge's neck, close to the jugular vein, was the give-away and the gelding subsequently tested positive for the prohibited substance bute, commonly given to mask pain or discomfort.
An investigation revealed that only Flood or Taylor could have given the injection. They were undone by CCTV footage at the racecourse stables which revealed they were the only ones to enter Mossman Gorge's box. The Jockey Club's citation would do credit to Sergeant Lewis. "At 12.51 hours, the gelding was led into the stable yard at the racecourse by Taylor and placed in box 40. Thereafter, until 13.17 hours, when the alarm was raised, only Flood and Taylor go into box 40. They spent one period of five minutes and another of two minutes in the box together, unobserved by the CCTV camera."
Despite protestations of innocence by the pair, the disciplinary panel found Flood in breach of the rules which cover testing positive to and administering a prohibited substance, doing so on a racecourse, and misleading stewards. Taylor's lesser guilt was in aiding and abetting, and misleading.
Flood relinquished his training licence shortly after the incident and both men have been working for the trainer Kevin McAuliffe. The stewards decided that, as the rules allow, Flood will be able to seek employment in racing after 17 months from next Wednesday.
The misleading of the stewards occurred during various interviews, when Flood changed his story about the administration of the injection, and its content, several times.
Flood gave up his licence at his Upper Lambourn yard following a major fall-out with his principal owner, Mark Serrell.
Mossmann Gorge, the innocent party, ran, and won, at Southwell yesterday for Mark Wellings, the trainer to whom he was transferred last year. The four-year-old is named after a Queensland beauty spot, which is, perhaps appropriately, located near Cape Tribulation.
The Champion Hurdle second favourite Macs Joy delighted his trainer, Jessica Harrington, in his final pre-Cheltenham gallop on the Curragh yesterday morning. The seven-year-old worked over 10 furlongs on the all-weather strip and Harrington said afterwards: "I was very happy with that. We'll just keep him ticking over now and he'll sail over on Saturday night."
Macs Joy, a winner at Gowran Park 18 days ago, will be joined on the ferry by his stablemate Moscow Flyer, who rather disappointed in his racecourse workout at Leopardstown on Sunday but will be trying for a third victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday none the less. "He seems fine," added Harrington. "There is nothing clinically wrong with him, so we'll just have to see how he goes."
The Grand National winner Hedgehunter was given a vote of confidence yesterday by Mick Fitzgerald after his spin round Leopardstown. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding will be trying to become the first Aintree hero to follow up with a first-time win in the Gold Cup and Fitzgerald was mightily impressed with what he felt. "I could not help but be," he said. "He showed plenty of zest and jumped brilliantly. He was very strong at the end which is what you look for in a piece of work like that. In an open year he has a real live, each-way chance."
But the Irish invasion for the Festival was reduced by one yesterday when Justified was announced an absentee from Tuesday's Arkle Trophy by his trainer, Dusty Sheehy. The seven-year-old had been as low as 12-1 for the two-mile novices' crown but scoped badly after working last week. "You can't go to Cheltenham if you're not totally right," said Sheehy. "We'll look towards Fairyhouse or Punchestown with him now."
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