Pat Kelly fined after winner returned a positive test for cobalt

Galway native trained Warendorf to win a point to point at Belclare last March

 

The Cheltenham festival winning trainer Pat Kelly has expressed disappointment with the outcome of a Referrals Committee hearing which saw him fined €1,000 after a point to point winner returned a positive test for cobalt.

Craughwell, Co. Galway based Kelly - who trains the current favourite for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, Presenting Percy - trained Warendorf to win a point to point at Belclare last March.

On Tuesday a Referrals Committee hearing panel chaired by Justice Tony Hunt concluded that Warendorf’s sample contained cobalt above the international threshold and disqualified the horse.

Warendorf is the 13th winner, either on the track or in point to points, to be disqualified in Ireland this year following a testing positive for a prohibited substance.

Last week five winners were disqualified after testing positive for a variety of substances.

They included Camlann who tested positive for cobalt after winning at the Galway festival. His trainer, John ‘Shark’ Hanlon received an 18 month suspended sentence.

Cobalt is a naturally occurring substance in horses but when administered in large quantities it is believed to increase red blood cells and improve metabolic efficiency similar to the blood doping agent EPO.

Evidence was heard at Tuesday’s Referrals Committee hearing from Dr Lynn Hillyer, the chief veterinary officer and head of anti-doping at the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, as well as Professor Stuart Paine from the University of Nottingham.

Kelly gave evidence as did a Dr Vivian Gath from University College Dublin who gave evidence on his behalf.

The panel concluded Kelly was in breach of Rule 96(a) and noted that “two competing hypotheses had been presented by the parties.” They were satisfied though that the IHRB evidence was “sufficiently strong and scientifically based to be relied on.”

A statement added they accepted that the most probable explanation was the that horse was exposed to cobalt “proximate to race.”

The panel said the trainer was generally responsible under Rule 148 for all matters relating to the welfare, training and running of horses.

But “given certain unusual and specific aspects of the case they accepted Mr Kelly’s assurance that he had not administered anything to the horse.”

They nevertheless fined Kelly €1,000 as reasonable precautions had not been taken by him to ensure the breach didn’t occur. €3,000 costs were awarded to the IHRB.

Afterwards Kelly said: “I’m not very happy with the outcome and the process. I thought the whole case from start to finish would be held and it wasn’t. It was only really about the cobalt that the horse had in his system. How it got there I don’t know.”

He added: “Being truthfully honest about the case all the way, I didn’t think I was treated very fair. There’s a lot of things I’m not happy about. It has cost me a lot of money to fight a €100 win in a point to point, paying solicitors and barristers and experts and everything.”

Cobalt is a prohibited substance when present in concentrations above the international threshold for plasma of 25ng/ml.

Warendorf’s ‘A’ sample which was tested at the LGC laboratory in England returned a concentration of 38.8ng/ml. At Kelly’s request the ‘B’ sample was also tested and a laboratory in France returned a concentration of 38.3ng/ml.

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