Moonlit Path's star crashes to earth

Mare trained by Nicky Henderson and owned by the Queen tests positive

Even Eden had its serpent, and yesterday the racing authorities twice introduced a sombre note of vigilance to an afternoon that otherwise seemed the epitome of innocent pleasure. Here, despite a somewhat provocative ride on the favourite for the big race, the stewards found nothing to cloud the gorgeous, sunlit panorama of Ladies' Day; down in London, however, their masters found themselves obliged to challenge a trainer in the service of the monarch herself.

Nicky Henderson's stable has just completed an excellent season over jumps, but he faces a mortifying epilogue after the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced that Moonlit Path, a mare he trains for the Queen, tested positive to a prohibited substance after finishing sixth at Huntingdon in February.

Henderson has been charged with the raceday administration of tranexamic acid, apparently a treatment against bleeding. The rules permit the BHA to suspend a trainer for up to five years, but if Henderson is found to have behaved in ignorance of the rules – rather than indifference to them – it may be that a fine, and a crimson blush, is deemed punishment enough.

His embarrassment seemed plain yesterday. "The substance concerned was administered by my vet entirely in the interests of the horse's welfare, which is always paramount," he stressed. "There was no intention to enhance performance – and it is worth pointing out that we won the race in question with the odds-on Ravello Bay."

A different scenario in the Virgin Money Chester Vase doubtless stimulated some dark mutterings among punters who backed Masterofthehorse. In this instance the favourite was set an awful lot to do by Johnny Murtagh, and proved unable to reel back Golden Sword – a 25-1 shot, also trained by Aidan O'Brien, who made all under Colm O'Donoghue at 25-1.

The stewards asked Murtagh to explain his tactics and, after he did so, decided that no further action was warranted. He repeated his version of events afterwards, thus: "Aidan said to me, 'I know it's a tight track, but I would love to see him dropping in. Get him to relax and get him to finish his race.' Colm got three lengths on the turn into the straight, and he was able to maintain it. You have to ride horses for what's best for the horses. Sometimes it turns out [well] and you're great, sometimes you get beaten, and you're not. That is part of the business."

For this colt to get within two lengths of Golden Sword, after being ridden with such extravagant patience, suggests he merits his place in the Investec Derby field. Detached in last passing the stands for the first time, he still had a good 10 lengths to make up approaching the final turn. Obliged then to circle the field, he passed every other rival and so confirmed the impression he had made last year, when finishing well against no less a colt than Sea The Stars at the Curragh, that he would develop into a smart colt over middle distances.

It does seem hard that those who backed him should already be despairing with a circuit to go. But they have to acknowledge that O'Brien's priority, in sending horses to this eccentric track, is to give horses experience. Nor could they expect Masterofthehorse to be given a hard race first time out. Neither factor, of course, disqualified him as a potential winner. But anyone betting in Classic trials, not least on horses making their first appearance of the season, needs to make allowances for the role of these races in a thoroughbred's career development.

Golden Sword himself, moreover, was no mere "rabbit". He had shaped well on his own reappearance, in France last month, and on pedigree was entitled to improve for stepping up to a mile and a half. Still, that the best colt did not win was shown by Ladbrokes, who offer Golden Sword at 40-1 for Epsom, and Masterofthehorse at 16-1.

The top Derby hope at Ballydoyle remains Fame And Glory, who runs at Leopardstown on Sunday, but the stable fields another marker today in the Addleshaw Goddard Dee Stakes. Drumbeat has plenty of experience, and will be fitter for his trip to Newmarket, and those factors together might enable him to win. But South Easter (2.15) has the potential to approach Drumbeat's standard sooner rather than later.

Sadly, Free Agent misses his first scheduled appearance since his success at Royal Ascot, having bruised a foot. In the circumstances, his owner is likely to have greeted the news rather less stoically than her subjects might expect. For Free Agent runs in the same colours as Moonlit Path. It seems safe to suggest that one was not amused.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Balaagha (4.0 Chester)

NB: Just Mustard (8.20 Hamilton)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Sales Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a £multi-million award w...

Recruitment Genius: Support Workers - Mother's Help / Buddy Support Role

£8 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A gentleman with congenital achondropla...

Recruitment Genius: Training Officer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Training Officer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent