IHRB declines to comment on report of positive test for cobalt

Horse Racing Ireland board to examine new anti-doping policy on Monday

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board will not comment on whether or not a point-to-point winner trained by the Cheltenham festival-winning trainer Pat Kelly tested positive for cobalt in March.

A newspaper report on Sunday indicated that Warendorf provided a positive test for the substance after winning at the Belclare point-to-point. No horse has tested positive for cobalt in Ireland before.

Cobalt is a naturally occurring mineral. But it is believed excessive levels increase the number of red blood cells, producing a greater ability to carry oxygen and boosting endurance in an effect similar to erythropoietin.

"We have a policy of not commenting on prohibited substances cases," the IHRB chief executive, Denis Egan, said on Sunday.

Irish racing’s regulatory body has been testing for cobalt since 2016. The substance has been at the centre of a number of high-profile cases in Australia in recent years.

Last year the Co Armagh-based restricted trainer, Stephen McConville, and his son, Michael, got three-year bans from the British Horseracing Authority after their horse, Anseanachai Cliste, tested positive for cobalt at the 2017 Cheltenham festival.

Three victories

It is understood that Warendorf, who hasn’t raced since winning that point to point, has since been sold to owners based in Britain.

Kelly also declined to comment on the matter on Sunday. The trainer has enjoyed three victories at the Cheltenham festival in the last three years, most notably with Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase.

Presenting Percy is a 6-1 favourite in some ante-post betting lists for the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In other news the board of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) will meet on Monday to potentially approve a long-awaited proposed new anti-doping policy for Irish racing.

The document produced by the anti-doping task force, chaired by Colm Gaynor, has been examined in recent weeks by the various sector groups required to sign up to it.

They include the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and groups representing owners and trainers as well three sales companies: Goffs, Tattersalls and Goresbridge.

"It's going to the board with our recommendation but I'm not going to pre-empt what the board decides," HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said on Sunday.

Lifetime ban

The proposed new policy allows for a lifetime ban for any horse found to have tested positive in any country for prohibited substances such as anabolic steroids. It also rules out therapeutic use exemptions for any prohibited substances.

Plans for a database that will allow traceability of every thoroughbred throughout their lives have also been outlined in the policy.

Central to it is provision for a service level agreement which will “enable some or all of the IHRB’s veterinary officers be appointed authorised officers for the purposes of section 10 of the Animal Remedies Act 1993”.

The issue of any notice to be given before testing has dogged negotiations on the policy since an original task force report at the start of 2016.

The new document proposes random inspections that can be carried out by IHRB vets and intelligence led testing when the regulatory body officials will be accompanied by Department of Agriculture personnel.

‘Less than ideal’

Prior day notice is proposed in certain circumstances in relation to random testing, something that has already been described as “less than ideal” by Denis Egan.

Monday evening’s action at Ballinrobe sees Ruler Of France put his 100 per cent track record to the test in the €30,000 handicap feature.

Paddy Twomey’s stalwart has won all three of his starts over the course and distance including in this race two years ago.

Ruler Of France is on a 5lb lower mark now and comes on the back of a victory here last time.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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