By Howard Wright

HONG KONG has been added to the BHA’s list of countries from where runners are treated in the same way as British-registered horses under the governing authority’s recently strengthened anti-doping policy.

The decision, revealed publicly for the first time on Thursday by BHA chief executive Nick Rust in a presentation to the Pan American Conference in New York, means that Able Friend, currently rated the world’s joint top-rated performer by the international handicappers’ panel, has been excused being put through a testing regime before he set off to tackle his first race away from Sha Tin in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes.

Unbeaten in his last six starts, including four Group 1s, and generally quoted second favourite to Solow for the royal meeting opener, Able Friend is due to arrive in England on Saturday evening and will be stabled with Michael Bell in Newmarket.

Hong Kong-based runners have joined those from Ireland, France, Germany and Sweden in being exempted from arriving in Britain ten days ahead of their intended race in order to be tested, because their home jurisdictions’ stringent anti-doping policies match those of the BHA. Intended runners from all other overseas countries have to adhere to a regime that came into force in March and includes a ban on the use of anabolic steroids from registration of birth to permanent retirement from racing.

Sweden, which has long outlawed anabolic steroids, even for therapeutic use, was included when sprinter Volatile became a confirmed candidate for the new Commonwealth Cup on June 19.

Rust arrived in New York from Lexington, Kentucky, where on Tuesday he and BHA director of raceday operations and regulation Jamie Stier updated local owners, breeders and representatives of sales companies about Britain’s enhanced, zero-tolerance strategy on anabolic steroids, and attempted to calm concerns expressed about horses being exported from the US, where a similar policy is not in place.

Rust took the message to a wider audience at the conference, explaining that the intention was to create a level playing field for horsemen and punters, and saying to around 250 delegates, including many from outside North and South America: “We’re not trying to extend our rules to other jurisdictions, but we want to lead and influential international policy.”

He stressed there would be no retrospective action following the introduction of Britain’s new policy, saying: “March 2 was the point when the new rules came in, and if steroids were administered before, that’s not covered by our rules.”

In relation to the ‘like policy’ agreements already made, he added: “We hope to be able to work with other major racing nations such as the US to achieve similar policies in the coming months.”

Rust explained that the BHA was in discussion with British bloodstock auction houses on immediate post-sale testing procedures, and said: “Our visit to the US has been extremely useful and we are looking at how something similar might be put in place, especially for the summer and autumn sales. I have promised to come back to the US authorities in the next few weeks.”