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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
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

Mechanical Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A key client in the East Midlands are re...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobWe are looking ...

Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The Job...Due to continued ...

Supply Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply TeachersWould you l...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice