Tiresome as it must have seemed, to one of the top jumps trainers in the land, the announcement yesterday that another of Nicky Henderson's horses has tested positive for a prohibited substance was not quite the sensation it might at first appear.
It has been known for some time that he would be obliged to face a British Horseracing Authority inquiry soon, an unexpected positive test in his string having alerted him to a potential problem with Binocular's defence of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. Even so, there will be curiosity within the sport about the circumstances by which a sample from Heather Royal, sixth in a bumper at Huntingdon in February, came to contain traces of Dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Henderson notoriously received a fine of £40,000 after another mare, running at the same track two years prior, tested positive for an anti-bleeding drug. There was an uncomfortable sequel to that scandal in February, when Henderson gave evidence to a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons hearing – after which the vet responsible for the medication of Moonlit Path was struck off. It now turns out that this latest aberration had taken place only days previously.
It was upon learning that another horse had tested positive that Henderson suddenly realised, to his horror, that the same treatment may not have cleared Binocular's system. He duly arranged an elective test during the weekend preceding the Festival (for which initiative, understandably, he felt he deserved congratulation rather than opprobrium) and the result made it plain that Binocular could not run. He lamented that the horse had only been treated for some innocuous spots on his neck. The steroid in question is primarily prescribed to treat allergies, but there has been some debate about its beneficial metabolic properties. Regardless, it was not clearing the system within the eight-day window recommended. It is believed that 18 days had been allowed for it to do so.
Henderson faces a fine of up to £10,000 for the failed test, and another, of up to £2,000, if found to have kept incomplete medical records. The hearing will be heard on 23 June.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Miss Topsy Turvy (5.10 Nottingham) Exploited an undemanding initial rating at Salisbury and can improve past a 6lb higher mark.
Elusivity (8.20 Haydock) Clearly on a competitive mark, due to go up 4lb for a good recent run at Leicester.
One to watch
Boogie Shoes (Roger Varian) Struck impressively for home on Derby day, before idling and/or tiring on the camber.
Where the money's going
Totesport have laid Duncan (8-1 from 10-1) and Holberg (11-1 from 14-1) in the Gold Cup at Ascot next week.