Trainer John Halley, a well-known bloodstock figure as vet to both Coolmore Stud and Ballydoyle, has lost a ‘winner’ in a bizarre long-running drugs case involving the family dog.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) revealed on Friday that the Halley-trained Iberia has been disqualified from first in a hurdle race at Gowran in March last year due to a positive test for a prohibited substance.
The horse, who’d previously raced for O’Brien, including when unplaced in the 2020 Irish Derby, tested positive for Gabapentin.
It is a human medication promoted for use in horses as a painkiller for chronic neuropathic pain including laminitis. It hadn’t been reported in this jurisdiction in prohibited substance terms before.
Earlier this week an IHRB referrals panel confirmed Iberia’s disqualification but waived a €1,000 fine on Halley due to the “unusual circumstances” of the case. He did, however, have to pay €800 in costs to the IHRB.
It emerged on Friday that when contacted as part of the investigation by the IHRB’s head of anti-doping, Dr Lynn Hillyer, Halley said he did not use Gabapentin as a veterinary surgeon.
He did, however, supply a letter from another vet who had treated the Halley family dog after it presented with a sudden onset of severe pain and prescribed Gabapentin for a period ending the day after Iberia’s race.
Halley told the IHRB panel that the dog was allowed free rein of his stables in Co Tipperary, accompanied staff mucking out, and suggested cross-contamination from the animal’s urine was responsible for the positive test.
As his practice dealt only with horses, he said his wife took the dog to another vet. He said the case had been “of much embarrassment for him, both personally and professionally”.
Hillyer told the panel that to better understand the scenario, samples of canine urine were taken from dogs administered the drug and an “extensive laboratory investigation” carried out at LGC lab in England.
Analysis established “sufficient scientific evidence for the IHRB to accept Mr Halley’s explanation for the post-race result as likely”.
The panel chaired by Justice Tony Hunt said it was bound by expert advice which concluded that Halley’s explanation was plausible.
It concluded the medication was “unknowingly administered” to the horse after “excretion from the dog in the stable”. It also said that while a trainer must take reasonable precautions to horses entering licensed stables, the obligation did not extend to other types of animals.
In other news, Royal Ascot 2022 concludes on Saturday where Ado McGuinness’s star sprinter A Case Of You tackles an international field in the featured Group One Platinum Jubilee Stakes.
The massive 27-strong field also includes runners from Australia, the US and Japan.
On the back of Nature Strip’s King’s Stand romp on Tuesday, his stable companion Home Affairs, who carries the Coolmore colours, is the ‘buzz horse’ for this six-furlong heat.
His narrow defeat of Nature Strip at Flemington in February will be enough of a form line for many although A Case Of You can boast a pair of Group One successes himself.
Campanelle got the race in the stewards room a year but if there is a European to upset the Aussie sprint bandwagon it could be Alcohol Free dropping back to the speed game.
Top National Hunt trainer Henry de Bromhead could secure a maiden Royal Ascot success in the Jersey Stakes with Star Girls Aalmal. She should relish a drop back to seven furlongs based on a fine Irish Guineas effort last time.
Aidan O’Brien has four Ascot runners including Broome who takes on Hurricane Lane in the Hardwicke.
His main runner though is Snowfall’s brother Alfred Munnings who is already favourite for next year’s classics and has a second career start in the Chesham.
O’Brien’s Group One focus will switch to Paris on Sunday where Toy tries to give him back to back victories in the French Oaks.
A total of 18 fillies will line up for the €1 million Prix De Diane which is due off at 3.0pm Irish-time.
The notorious Chantilly draw effect hasn’t been kind to the Irish hope who disappointed on her previous start in the French Guineas and will start from a disadvantageous stall 16.
Toy does boast the pedigree to win as her full sister Joan Of Arc scored in the Diane last year. Donnacha O’Brien’s Fancy Blue led home an Irish 1-2-3 in the race in 2020.
Leading English rider Hollie Doyle is favourite to secure a landmark classic on the Gosden-trained Nashwa who was third to Tuesday in the Epsom Oaks last week.
She is in stall two next to the leading home hope Agave who will try to finally complete veteran jockey Oliver Peslier’s collection of French classics.
Saturday’s Boylespsorts Ulster Derby programme is the only weekend domestic action in Ireland.