Jumps trainer Howard Johnson was left last night with his career in limbo after the conclusion of an inquiry into alleged breaches of rules governing horse welfare. Co Durham-based Johnson admitted the most serious accusation, that he had run the chaser Striking Article after the horse had undergone denerving surgery while in his care, but claimed he was unaware of the rule that states he should not have done so.
Johnson himself was told whether or not he had been found in breach of the rules, but left the hearing at the British Horseracing Authority's London headquarters without comment. The BHA disciplinary panel will not announce any penalties, along with its verdict and reasons, concerning the charges until next week.
Horses who have had denerving surgery (a palmar neurectomy, which is used to relieve chronic pain but causes numbness in the foot) are forbidden to run on welfare and safety grounds. A breach of the rule, if judged as serious as wilful neglect, can carry a ban of up to 10 years. Striking Article ran eight times after his operation and had to be put down after pulling up lame at Musselburgh in February last year.
Johnson, 58, denied all nine charges that he faced, including that he administered forbidden steroids to three other horses. He has held a trainer's licence since 1986 and has had success at the highest level, including with triple World Hurdle champion Inglis Drever who, like the horses involved in yesterday's case, carried the colours of the millionaire businessman Graham Wylie.
The BHA confirmed Johnson had been told the verdict on each of the charges. "It is the intention of the disciplinary panel to publish full written reasons for its findings in relation to whether or not there are breaches and any subsequent penalty on or by Wednesday 10 August," the BHA stated.
The Stewards' Cup winner Hoof It was confirmed yesterday as a runner in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York two weeks on Friday. The Mick Easterby-trained four-year-old carries the colours of golfer Lee Westwood and his manager, Chubby Chandler, who stated: "Hoof It will be supplemented for the Nunthorpe," at a cost of £20,000. The gelding, who has already won three times on the Knavesmire straight, is the gamble of the race, backed to as short as 7-2 yesterday.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Na Zdorovie (7.00 Kempton) Her debut second, where she split a filly subsequently Listed-placed and one who afterwards won a nursery, stacks up well.
Catalyze (3.30 Brighton) Showed with two third places at Epsom that he can cope with a switchback track and will appreciate faster ground.
One to watch
Imperial Guest (George Margarson) Posted a creditable effort in a valuable handicap at Ascot last time and will be of interest when he gets his favoured faster conditions.
Where the money's going
Saptapadi, for whom Kieren Fallon was booked yesterday, is 7-1 Ebor Handicap favourite with sponsors Betfred.