Monday, January 10, 2011

Dope controversy follow-up

"Lab findings intriguing": Vivek Jain

Prakash Gosavi

For Vivek Jain, chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) Ltd, the news of as many as three horses involved in the first two Classics testing positive for a banned substance couldn't have come at a worse time. No wonder the marketer in Vivek is a very depressed man. "Our best race (Derby) is coming up in a month's time, followed by the Invitation Cup four weeks later," Jain told MiD DAY, "this is a huge setback."

He was reacting to the news that three horses who ran in the Classics last month--Ocean And Beyond, winner of the grade 1, Indian 2000 Guineas, Star Future, runner up in the same race, and Eloise, who placed third in the Indian 1000 Guineas--all tested positive for a banned substance, Boldenone, as per the report sent in by the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory (HFL) based in Newmarket, England. The horses are trained by leading trainers like Shiraz Sunderji, Cooji Katrak & Pesi Shroff respectively.

Jain however expressed intrigue over the nature of revelations. "Purely as a keen racgegoer, I find it mysterious--three horses from three different stables, owned by prominent owners and trained by leading professionals, all testing positive for the same drug in a week's time is unprecedented."

As a steward, however, he has a job to do. "We will go by the procedure," he added, "first the 'B' sample will be sent for analysis, and only after it confirms the same finding, the due process will start."

It may be noted that any horse's urine sample that is collected for analysis is split into two, labeled as 'A' & 'B'. While the A sample is sent to the HFL, the B sample is sealed and preserved. If and when the A sample is found positive, the concerned horse trainer is given a choice between two other accredited laboratories--one in Hong Kong and the other in France--where the B sample is sent for confirmation.

Cooji Katrak, trainer of Star Future who is among the horses testing positive, told MiD DAY, "A trainer would have to be out of his mind to administer Boldenone to a horse. Everyone knows it can show up for extreme length of time in a horse's system, sometimes more than many months."

Pesi Shroff, the most famous name from Indian horse racing who had an almost unblemished record first as a jockey and now as a trainer until this incident, told MiD DAY. "I feel terrible, what do you expect me to say when the matter is sub-judice?"

The sense of shock among racing fraternity on day one seems to have made way for intrigue and confusion on day two. "The Calendar notification banning the use of Boldenone in horses has been in existence for ages," a western India-based trainer told MiD DAY on the condition of anonymity, "it is laughable to think trainers like Sunderji, Katrak and Pesi don't know it. There could be more to this than meets the eye."

"As a sport, racing is already going through a very harrowing time with dwindling crowds and rising taxes," Manish Jha, a racegoer for over 30 years, said, "such negative publicity will hammer the last nail in racing's coffin."

Vivek Jain, however, strongly feels the positives will outweigh the negatives over the long run. "The drug findings are an aberration in our efforts to showcase the sport in all its glory," his latest tweet expressed high optimism, "the show must, and will, go on."

(c) MiD DAY

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