McConvilles face charges over Anseanachai Cliste’s positive test

Horse tested positive for cobalt and Adrenal Cortex at Cheltenham in March

Anseanachai Cliste, who was banned from running at the Cheltenham Festival in March after a blood-covered syringe was discovered in his box before the Foxhunters' Chase, tested positive for the banned substance cobalt, the British Horseracing Authority disclosed on Wednesday as it issued serious charges against the gelding's trainer and owner.

Stephen McConville, who trains Anseanachai Cliste near Portadown in Northern Ireland, and his son Michael, who is the nine-year-old's owner and regular jockey, will face a disciplinary panel on September 19th to answer a series of charges relating to the alleged possession and administration of cobalt, which can boost a horse's red blood cell count, and Adrenal Cortex, which is described by one online supplier of equine veterinary products as "a potent anti-inflammatory agent providing some analgesia along with a sense of euphoria to the horse".

The listing adds that Adrenal Cortex “works best when used close to the start of the event, because the duration of action is very short”.

Anseanachai Cliste, a prolific winner in point-to-points, was a 33-1 outsider for the Foxhunters', the race after the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 17th.


His sudden scratching on the day was explained at the time only by a report that “the stewards could not be satisfied he had been administered only normal food and water on race day”.

Nine days after his withdrawal at Cheltenham, Anseanachai Cliste beat 11 opponents in the Ulster National at Downpatrick, winning a first prize of €15,375 (about £13,500). The gelding passed a subsequent dope test but reports emerged in early July that suggested Anseanachai Cliste had failed a test ordered by the stewards on March 17th and that a blood-covered syringe had been recovered from his box at the track.

Positive test

Both the substances involved and the circumstances and location in which they were allegedly discovered will ensure that it will be one of the most high-profile cases to come before the BHA’s disciplinary panel in recent years.

It is the first in Britain to involve a positive test for cobalt, which is believed to increase endurance in racehorses. It was the subject of a series of positive dope tests in Australia in 2015, however, which led to high-profile disciplinary cases against trainers including Peter Moody, famous for his handling of the outstanding champion Black Caviar, and Danny O'Brien, whose Star Witness was placed in two Group One sprints at Royal Ascot in 2011.

O'Brien and Mark Kavanagh, another of Australia's leading trainers, were banned for four and three years respectively in January 2016 but won a court case to have their bans overturned having argued they were unaware their vet, Dr Tom Brennan, had administered the drug.

Moody, who received a six-month ban in March 2016, has not renewed his trainer’s licence following his suspension.

The maximum penalty for both the presence of a banned substance in a horse’s sample and the administration, or attempted administration, of a prohibited drug is a 10-year ban from the sport, though the “entry point” penalty is a two-year ban.

Both Stephen and Michael McConville also face charges they misled, or endeavoured to mislead, stewards or officials investigating the incident, which carries a maximum penalty of a three-year ban. Guardian Service