By: Stuart Riley
There can be a multitude of reasons for a failed doping test and there is an early leader for the most bizarre cause of a positive this year after the BHA on Thursday disqualified two Suzi Best-trained runners.
Outrath and Ertidaad, who won two days apart on the all-weather at Kempton in February 2018, provided post-race samples featuring minoxidil, an ingredient in the hair regrowth shampoo Regaine, which Best’s assistant and brother-in-law Tom has been using for seven years.
Both horses are stabled in a part of the barn Tom Best is responsible for. Moreover Outrath – who produced a slightly higher sample – is regularly ridden by Tom Best and he saddled both horses on the day in question as Suzi Best was unable to attend.
Suzi Best, who was not present at the hearing, accepted the charges. In a statement provided and read out by the BHA’s director of integrity and regulation Tim Naylor, she said: “As the horses were under my care and control I take full responsibility even though I had no reason to believe it could result in a positive, my assistant has been using the product for many years and neither of us had the slightest idea this could happen.
“As the trainer I take full responsibility for the unfortunate circumstances that led to the positives and am devastated.”
Due to the horses testing positive the panel, chaired by Patrick Milmo QC, had no discretion over the result. What was up for debate however was the extent of Best’s punishment.
Given the BHA’s investigators found no other means of administration and praised the Bests for their helpfulness – they even provided the Regaine package in question for sampling – the BHA fully accepted cross contamination as the most likely cause of the adverse finding and sought only a fine, rather than a ban.
What is minoxidil?
Minoxidil is an antihypertensive, a type of drug used to lower blood pressure in humans. There are no veterinary formulations containing minoxidil that are licensed for use in animals in the UK. Minoxidil appears on the list of substances banned on raceday because it may have a pharmacological effect on multiple mammalian body systems.
However, if Best could demonstrate she had taken all reasonable precautions she could escape all punishment.
Naylor accepted it would be hard for a trainer to necessarily know a shampoo could cause a positive but the fact gloves were not used when applying it, and the fact they did not check with the BHA, were cited. He also repeatedly mentioned Best’s knowledge of the fact the product was being used by her brother-in-law.
In summing up, Milmo concluded she had not taken all reasonable precautions. He took the guideline entry of a £1,000 fine and applied it twice – once for each positive.
That the responsibility lies with the trainer to check with the governing body every time an employee changes shampoo was not contested, but in her statement Best said she has put procedures in place to stop it ever happening again and would now ask anyone entering the yard – such as a farrier – whether they too used the product.
Best back on track
Jim Best, who had his training licence suspended for six months in 2016 for instructing a jockey to stop two horses, is allowed back on racecourses when his wife has a runner after the conditions of Suzi Best’s licence were amended by the licensing committee.
An application was submitted on behalf of Suzi Best on December 5 asking for the conditions attached to her licence to be removed. That was unsuccessful, however one of the conditions was amended.
Having considered the application the committee ruled that her husband is allowed general admission to the racecourse at meetings at which she has a runner.
Roger Varian fined for administrative error
Roger Varian was fined £500 and accepted an administrative error on his part meant Quduraat ran twice and Turjomaan once when not qualified to race due to not having been tested since arriving from Dubai.
However, given the failure of the BHA and Weatherbys fail-safe that is meant to catch such instances and put a block on any entries Varian asked for leniency from the panel.
The panel did just that, applying the minimum £500 fine for each of the two instances in which Quduraat raced and a nominal £50 fine for the time Turjomaan ran as the initial block was initiated, and when Varian’s office contacted Weatherbys to find out why they were told there was no reason and the horse was allowed to be entered, meaning his fines totalled £1,050. The incident was escalated to the BHA, which did not follow up on it, and Turjomaan went on to win at Ascot.
Varian said: “I don’t think anyone’s set out to do anything wrong intentionally, it was an admin error on our part and there were minor errors on behalf of Weatherby and the BHA. I don’t contest there was an admin error, but if the system was as tight as it should be neither horse would have ran.”
He added: “It’s unfortunate for [owner] Sheikh Hamdan that his horse has essentially lost the race, but he’s a jolly nice horse and hopefully he can rectify that in the future.”