The Turf Drug Drama

By Oakley, Robin | The Spectator, May 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Turf Drug Drama


Oakley, Robin, The Spectator


Working partnerships don't always bring the results expected. I heard lately of a 12-yearold girl encouraged to spend a day on work experience with a relative in the building trade. After a day sorting correspondence, tidying files and making cups of tea on demand, young Emily returned home with a crisp ten pound note. Her proud mother took her down to the building society to open a savings account. 'Well done, ' said the lady on the till. 'And will you be working again next week?' 'Oh, that all depends, ' said the child, 'on whether the sodding bricks turn up.'

This column was to have been devoted to our Twelve to Follow. But selections must wait. Racing is in a total tizzy over the Godolphin affair, a public relations disaster of epic proportions. How could it have happened? How far does corruption go? Will the Maktoums pull out? Mahmood Al Zarooni, who was training half the 450 string which Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed keeps in Newmarket under the Godolphin banner, has confessed after drug tests by the British Horseracing Authority to administering anabolic steroids to a number of his horses.

He has been banned from racing for eight years. His career is over. An appalled Sheikh Mohammed has closed down the yard until every horse is certified free of contamination.

Sheikh Mohammed has not just used horseracing as the brand image for Dubai as a nation, he has also campaigned against the weakening of the breed in America where horses are allowed to run with Lasix, a drug which lessens the likelihood of them bursting blood vessels under the strain of competition.

In Britain horses running in Godolphin's blue have been a byword for probity. Punters could back any Godolphin horse knowing that the objective was nothing but winning races. So if corrupt practices have reached their level is racing totally bent?

Time, I think, for a little of the late Michael Winner's 'Calm down, dear'. Just 0.2 per cent of the horses tested each year reveal illicit drug traces. Sheikh Mohammed is a proud sportsman who loves his horses. He used to spend hours sitting in the box with his favourite Dubai Millennium. He loves to win and has spent many millions trying to buy success, and, as I keep telling my grandchildren when they are tempted to nudge a snakesand-ladders dice, he knows there is no point in winning if you cheat to get the result.

He imported Dubaian Zarooni alongside his already successful trainer Saeed bin Suroor because his 450 horses in Britain had become an unwieldy empire impossible for one man to handle. …

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