By: Brian O’Connor

The British Horseracing Authority has confirmed it is prepared to drug-test horses trained in Ireland before they race in some of the major flat meetings in Britain this year.

Testing was carried out by BHA personnel at the yards of both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott prior to the Cheltenham National Hunt festival earlier this month. All samples taken were negative.

Confirmation of pre-Cheltenham visits came amid reports of unhappiness at British racing’s ruling body in relation to levels of out-of-competition testing carried out here by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.

That provoked a quick response by the BHA stressing it has total faith in Irish racing’s anti-doping system. It also stressed that testing outside its jurisdiction is part of a new out-of-competition anti-doping strategy in relation to all overseas entries lined up to run at Britain’s biggest fixtures.

On Sunday a BHA spokesman indicated that strategy will be applied to the flat as well. The QIPCO Guineas fixture in Newmarket begins on May 5th and is likely to feature a number of Irish-trained runners, particularly from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team.

There is also likely to be major Irish representation at the Royal Ascot festival in June.

“There is no reason at all why the same won’t apply. If a significant percentage of the potential population targeted at our major festivals are from a particular nation, and it makes logistical sense, we will look at it,” said spokesman, Robin Mounsey.

“With international runners, say from America, the horse either has to be in Britain two weeks beforehand to be tested here, or provision is made to test it there,” he added.

No problem

Mounsey stated he was unable to say for definite when or if testing will take place by BHA officials in Ireland but indicated that such testing isn’t technically required to be cleared with the IHRB beforehand.

“Our policy is not to say yes or no to where we might test. The entire point of a testing policy is that it has to be agile and unpredictable,” he said.

The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association has “no problem” with out-of-competition testing by the BHA here. However its chief executive, Michael Grassick, appeared uneasy at the prospect of BHA testers just turning up at a yard.

“We have no problem with it at all, as long as the Turf Club (IHRB) is notified and accompany them down. That would be good manners, and it would provide reassurance as well. I wouldn’t like the BHA to just turn up unannounced,” he said on Sunday.

The BHA has had the provision to test overseas horses since it introduced new equine anti-doping rules in 2015.