Horses at raided Kildare yard test negative for prohibited substances

IHRB breaks with normal policy and reports negative results

No prohibited substances were found in tests taken from racehorses at the Co. Kildare yard raided by Gardai and the Department of Agriculture Food & Marine (DAFM) officials two weeks ago.

On Tuesday the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board broke with its normal procedure and issued a statement outlining the negative results of samples taken from racehorses at the premises near Monasterevin where equine therapist John Warwick operated from.

Animal medicines not licensed for use in Ireland were found in Warwick’s possession and were seized by DAFM personnel. It is understood it could be some time before the identity of those drugs is publicly available.

However, on the same day, IHRB officials took hair and blood samples from thoroughbreds present at the stables. Usually only details of positive drug tests are reported by the regulatory body but the high-profile nature of the current controversy appears to have prompted a change in policy.

A brief statement said: "The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board can today confirm that the hair and blood samples taken from horses at a premises near Monasterevin, County Kildare, on 9th November 2021 have been analysed at LGC laboratories and reported negative for prohibited at all times substances.

“As this is part of an ongoing investigation working in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and other agencies, we cannot make any further comment at this time.”

Substances prohibited at all times include anabolic steroids.

Other medications are permitted for veterinary use but cannot be in an animal’s system on race-day and an IHRB spokesman later clarified: “No prohibited substances of any kind were found in the racehorses tested.”

Releasing such information is a rare step by the IHRB with fears previously being privately expressed about the possibility of prejudicing any potential DAFM court case or any hearing that might occur within racing’s own referral system.

The results are good news for a sector that for over a year has repeatedly come under the spotlight due to drugs since Jim Bolger’s claims that doping is Irish racing’s number one problem.

The fallout from the raid has also appeared to provoke some Anglo-Irish tension within racing circles.

Some Irish trainers have privately described as “outrageous” reports that the Monasterevin raid resulted from information supplied by a private investigator hired by a group of British trainers.

The investigator was reportedly hired to monitor Warwick’s movements and collect details of vehicles arriving at the premises where he was based, information that was then given to the authorities here.

As a result DAFM officials seized medicines in Warwick’s possession although the 74 year old Scot, who has a long history of working on horses with leg problems on both sides of the Irish Sea, insisted there was “no dope.” He did concede though he had broken the rules relating to unauthorised medicines.

Although reluctant to comment publicly, a number of Irish trainers admitted to dismay at the reports and speculation has inevitably arisen as to the possible identities of those doing the hiring.

The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association declined to comment on whether or not the latest incidents have produced an atmosphere of distrust and resentment between handlers on either side of the Irish Sea.

Its counterpart, the National Trainers Federation, played down suggestions of tension between the racing communities.

“I wouldn’t say it is an indicator of a wider relationship problem at all,” said the NTF’s chief executive, Rupert Arnold on Tuesday. “I don’t think there is a problem in terms of the atmosphere between the two countries.”

Nevertheless some figures here privately argue that discontent among British trainers was inevitable after the record-breaking Cheltenham festival in March when horses trained in Ireland won an astonishing 23 races at the biggest jumps festival of all.

One said the media reports of a private investigator being hired smacked of little more than professional jealousy.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column

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