Gordon Elliott receives fine, and Zanahiyr disqualified from the last year’s Champion Hurdle.
After testing positive for a prohibited substance on raceday, Zanahiyr was disqualified from third place in the Unibet Champion Hurdle the previous year and Gordon Elliott was given a fine of £1,000.
Although neither Elliott nor the BHA were able to pinpoint the source of the substance, it was discovered that Zanahiyr had traces of a metabolite of lidocaine, a local anesthetic, in his system. BHA legal counsel Charlotte Davison described the situation as “a mystery case.”
In April of last year, officials from the IHRB under the direction of the BHA carried out an unannounced inspection of Elliott’s yard. However, the yard did not contain any evidence of lidocaine. In addition, neither Elliott’s regular veterinarian nor a specialist who had treated Zanahiyr’s back prior to Cheltenham asserted that the medication had been administered to the horse.
The BHA received a list of employees who traveled with Elliott’s horses to the Cheltenham Festival last year and the medications they were taking. Lidocaine can be found in both prescription and over-the-counter medications for horses.
Older forms of Bonjela were one such item, and it was discovered that the person who applied Zanahiyr’s tongue tie was using them. However, additional investigations revealed that the Bonjela that the individual was using did not contain the substance.
Elliott’s attorney, Rory Mac Neice, stated that the Cheltenham racecourse stables were “overwhelmingly the most likely place” where Zanahiyr came into contact with lidocaine and that the trainer had taken reasonable precautions to prevent cross contamination.
The BHA had sought to highlight Elliott’s staff’s “significant failings” in working practices, such as “an absence of training or guidance to members of staff about how to reduce the risk of cross contamination” and “no procedures being in place to allow members of staff taking medication to notify the yard of that fact”.
Elliott had been asked by a BHA investigator if appropriate processes were in place with staff to reduce the possibility of cross contamination, and said: “Absolutely, we would always talk to everyone on a regular basis about urinating in stables and that sort of stuff… I suppose it’s something we need to keep an eye out for. We’ll have to be tightening up on it.”
Mac Neice, on the other hand, argued that the BHA does not require such procedures and that individuals signing into the racecourse stables, which are controlled by the BHA, are not required to list their medications.
Noel and Valerie Moran’s Zanahiyr finished behind Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle last year, but Saint Roi, trained by Willie Mullins for JP McManus, took first place and received £47,745 in prize money instead.
Speaking after the hearing, Elliott said: “I’m grateful to the panel for making a finding of low culpability. That was important to me. It shows that I had taken reasonable precautions. That said, the buck stops with me and I fully support the rules on anti-doping.”
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