By: Michael Verney

JOSEPH O’BRIEN has avoided sanction from the Irish Horse Racing Board (IHRB) despite having one of his horses disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance earlier this year.

The O’Brien-trained Pedisnap won the Golf Membership Gowran Apprentice Handicap at Gowran Park on August 15 under champion apprentice Shane Crosse but was subsequently found to have exceeded the threshold for cobalt.

Cobalt is a mineral present in some over-the-counter equine feed supplements which is believed to improve a horse’s endurance when above normal levels of 100 nanograms per millilitre, as it had with Pedisnap.

A Paris laboratory confirmed the findings when testing the ‘B’ sample, as requested by O’Brien and the Kilkenny handler outlined that the cobalt came from a “salt lick” that the horse had been exposed to on a daily basis and on the day of the race, which Pedisnap won by a neck from Pat Flynn’s Lizard Point.

Analysis of a sample of a salt lick from the same manufacturer corroborated that it contained cobalt at a level sufficient to result in the adverse analytical finding.

Pedisnap was disqualified and the stake forfeited, but the IHRB waived a €1,000 fine as they were satisfied that O’Brien had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of rules and that the substance had been administered unknowingly.

The Irish Derby-winning handler is the latest in a worrying list of trainers to have horses fail drugs tests in Ireland with approximately 30 horses returning adverse findings in 2018.

Cork trainer Michael O’Connor was fined €1,000 after Awbeg Prince returned an adverse finding for cobalt after winning the McHale F5500 Baler Hurdle at Ballinrobe in May.

It was judged that O’Connor had failed to take reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of the rules and Awbeg Prince was disqualified from the race with his stake also forfeited.