Double standards on use of steroids
Australia's stance on drugs a world away from here as sport struggles to put scandal behind it
Sunday 28 April 2013
The British Horseracing Authority's veterinary squad will tomorrow begin a comprehensive independent drug-testing programme at Moulton Paddocks, the Newmarket stables at the centre of the doping scandal that resulted in Sheikh Mohammed's No 1 trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni being warned off for eight years. So it could be considered ironically timed that the horse who yesterday put forward captivating credentials to become one of the celebrity draws of the summer plies his trade in a country that condones the use of steroids outside race day.
Early in the morning in Sydney, All Too Hard booked his ticket to Royal Ascot with a dramatic late swoop to take the seven-furlong All Aged Stakes at Randwick. The colt is not only a high-class performer in his own right but also is the younger half-brother of recently retired superstar mare Black Caviar, whose 25-race unbeaten career included last year's Diamond Jubilee Stakes at the Royal meeting. John Hawkes-trained All Too Hard is a miler, not a sprinter like his peerless sibling – his target will be the Queen Anne Stakes – but clearly owns something of the family turbo-boost, producing a stunning change of gear under Dwayne Dunn to notch his fifth Group 1 victory after a three-month absence.
Yesterday's race was the four-year-old's last in his homeland before he begins his second career at one of Australia's top stallion stations, Vinery, in August. "We always thought he was the real deal," said Peter Orton, the stud's manager, "and yes, we will definitely be on our way to England."
All Too Hard will add welcome international spice to one of Britain's showcase occasions. But after this past week's events, his presence may be an uncomfortable reminder that the drugs playing field for horses is not level worldwide. The use of anabolic steroids is banned in Britain, but in some other countries – including Australia and Dubai – is allowed, so long as no trace remains in the system on race day, and is used as a recovery and development aid.
No runners will emerge for several months from Moulton Paddocks, one of two British bases for Sheikh Mohammed's elite Godolphin operation. The first to appear in the royal blue silks since the steroid scandal erupted will be Sajjhaa, one of the leading fancies for this morning's prestigious QEII Cup in Hong Kong. The mare, based in Dubai during the winter, is trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, whose Newmarket yard has not been linked to events at Al Zarooni's.
In six days' time Dawn Approach, headhunted by Godolphin midway through his unbeaten first season, will start a hot favourite for the year's first Classic, the Qipco 2,000 Guineas. That the Sheikh chose to leave the colt with Jim Bolger in Ireland, rather than transfer him to the flagship in-house stable, must be a matter of some relief. But victory on the Rowley Mile on Saturday would surely be the chilliest of comfort.
The 2012-13 jump season was wound up at Sandown yesterday, with the champions – jockey Tony McCoy, trainer Nicky Henderson and owner JP McManus – already long identified. The new campaign starts today at Wetherby, with one unusual omission; McCoy, nursing cracked ribs, is giving his rivals a start on his quest for a 19th consecutive title and 4,000 career winners.
The afternoon's feature chase, the bet365 Gold Cup, is not the finale it once was, rather reduced to an afterthought by the dominance of the festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown. But it gave 14-1 shot Quentin Collonges the chance to confirm himself one of the toughest long-distance handicappers; the little grey, ridden by Andrew Tinkler, rallied gamely after being outjumped by Same Difference at the last to take the prize by two lengths.
McCoy beat Jason Maguire by 41, but in Ireland it was closer; Davy Russell was two clear of Ruby Walsh, whose boss Willie Mullins crowned his eighth trainers' title by taking his Grade 1 haul during the Punchestown week to seven with Glens Melody and Diakali.
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