Racing: Anxious wait over dope fears

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The Independent Online
DAYS of anxiety lie ahead for the Jockey Club as it seeks to establish whether dopers are again at work on the racecourses of Britain. Yesterday the Club revealed that Martin Pipe's Triumph Hurdle candidate, Her Honour, had failed a recent post-race drug test and investigations during the coming days should reveal whether accidentally contaminated feedstuff or the dopers' medicine chest is the cause.

The announcement comes just 24 hours after the Jockey Club attempted to assuage fears that a number of poor performances by certain horses were attributable to dope. It reported that tests on the horses were negative and that 'there is no evidence to support any allegations of skullduggery'.

Yesterday however, David Pipe, the Jockey Club's director of public affairs, said: 'I can confirm that Her Honour tested positive to a prohibited substance. Our security department is carrying out its normal investigations and we have not yet established whether the horse was doped or not.'

The Jockey Club does not normally release details of positive tests but Pipe said: 'It will probably take a few more days before we know the source, and it would be up to the Disciplinary Committee to decide whether it will be made public. Our staff are seeking to determine how, where and when it was administered.'

It is possible that Her Honour failed the test because of contaminated feed or mistakenly applied medication, but the inference from Martin Pipe yesterday was that the answer may not be so wholesome. 'I am implying that that is not the case. But it is up to the Jockey Club to release the full details,' was all he would say.

The positive test on Her Honour came after she finished sixth in a novice hurdle, 40 lengths behind the winner Indian Quest, at Kempton last month. She started the 6-4 favourite that day and there was nothing obvious in the pattern of betting on the race to suggest she had been 'got at'.

Certainly none of the other runners were backed inordinately heavily on course and one of the tasks of the Jockey Club investigators will be to check the ledgers of the bookmakers present to ascertain if any showed excessive keenness to attract bets on the horse.

Her Honour has since won easily in a lower grade when she was ridden from the front rather than from behind as at Kempton.

If fears that dopers are at work are confirmed then the security measures taken by the Jockey Club following the nobbling of Bravefoot, Norwich and Flying Diva in 1990 will be called into question. The betting public's confidence in the sport's integrity is also likely to suffer.

The stewards in South Africa are also being kept busy, but it is the presence of Michael Roberts in the land of his birth that has increased their workload. On his first week back in the saddle after serving a two-week ban for causing interference, Roberts picked up another fortnight's suspension for two offences: hitting his mount, a winner, five times on the ear; and allowing another of his rides to drift out by six horse-widths during the first 200 metres of a race on the straight Vaal course where such moves are forbidden.

The dates of the ban have yet to be decided but it is unlikely to prevent Roberts's scheduled return to Britain to defend his championship on 25 March, when he will take up his new role as retained rider to Sheikh Mohammed.

Richard Dunwoody will wait until the weekend before deciding whether to desert Morley Street for Flown in the Champion Hurdle.