Talking Horses: mystery of cocaine horse set to remain unsolved

Talking Horses: mystery of cocaine horse set to remain unsolved

T

he troubled Phoenix Thoroughbreds racing operation claimed that cocaine found in the system of one of its horses after a race at Kempton Park in January 2018 would not have affected its performance, according to the findings of a disciplinary panel which fined the former trainer Jeremy Noseda £1,500 over the positive test this month.

Walk In The Sun, who cost €1.4m (£1.2m) as a breeze-up purchase in the spring of 2017, was trained by Noseda from May 2017 to May 2018, when Phoenix removed its 14-strong string of horses in his stable to other yards. The colt tested positive for both cocaine and benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of the drug, after making a winning debut in a race at Kempton Park in January 2018.

Noseda was fined £1,500 over the positive test at a hearing last week under rules that make a licensed trainer “strictly liable” for any banned substances found in one of their horses. In its written findings, however, which were published this week, the three-strong disciplinary panel makes it clear that it accepted “without reservation … that Mr Noseda himself did not administer this substance intentionally”, while failing to reach any conclusions as to how and why a Class A drug came to be in the winner’s system.

Noseda’s legal team called no evidence at the hearing although the former trainer was present via a video link throughout. Phoenix Thoroughbreds, meanwhile, supplied a written submission in October 2019, which appears to have included a suggestion – swiftly dismissed by the panel – that the drug had not affected Walk In The Sun’s performance.

According to the findings, the panel accepted “that the horse must be disqualified from the race, not least because it is clear that, contrary to the submission on behalf of Phoenix Thoroughbreds, the presence of cocaine and bezoylecgonine in the post-race sample could be capable of having affected the horse’s performance, something that is clearly established in the expert evidence of Dr Stuart Paine, submitted on behalf of the BHA”.

Having accepted that Noseda did not administer the drug deliberately, the panel explored a number of possibilities as to how the positive result came about, including deliberate intravenous injection “in quite considerable quantities” by a third party, as well as other potential routes “such as the horse having been being touched by someone who was a regular cocaine user, or because the horse ingested cocaine that had been dropped or spilt on the ground or through chewing on straw or shavings contaminated by urine from a cocaine user”.

Quick guide

Greg Wood’s Thursday tips

Show Hide

Pontefract 12.30 Ballyconeely Bay 1.00 Strike Red 1.30 Soft Whisper 2.05 Victory Chime 2.40 Dark Jedi 3.10 Classic Lord 3.45 Hart Stopper 4.20 Saluti

Perth 1.10 The Composeur 1.45 Billy The Squid 2.15 Saglawy 2.50 Archi’s Affaire 3.25 Copperless 4.00 River Icon 4.35 Tegerek 5.10 Craiganboy 5.45 Petite Ganache

Newmarket 1.15 Toromona 1.50 Lost In Space 2.25 Betsey Trotter (nap) 3.00 La Barossa 3.35 Withhold 4.10 Grand Bazaar 4.45 King Ragnar 5.20 Zoran

Kempton 4.25 Kingsholm 4.55 Party Spirit 5.30 May Night 6.00 Full Marks 6.30 Prismatic 7.00 Mount Mogan 7.30 Boma Green 8.00 Deposit (nb)-

In the absence of any oral evidence from witnesses, however, the panel decided that it would be “pointless” to “speculate about the competing possibilities”, and as a result the mystery of Walk In The Sun and how he came to test positive for cocaine after winning a minor race at Kempton Park seems certain to remain unsolved.

Phoenix Thoroughbreds was recently suspended from having runners in Britain “until further notice” by the British Horseracing Authority. The BHA’s decision came a month after the operation announced its intention to quit British racing “with immediate effect” following a number of articles in the Racing Post which linked Phoenix and its founder, Amer Abdulaziz, with a high-profile money-laundering trial in the United States.

Noseda, who saddled dozens of big-race winners in his career including Sixties Icon in the 2006 St Leger, made an unexpected announcement that he was handing in his licence “with a smile on my face and great memories” in June 2019.