Sky Hunter disqualified after failed test.
Byline: Graham Green
SAEED BIN SUROOR'S Sky Hunter was stripped of his victory in Ayr's Listed Doonside Cup yesterday, and the trainer fined PS1,000, as the BHA inquiry came up against a growing groundswell of opinion in Britain's training ranks that horses should be allowed to race on medication for gastric ulcers.
Following a failed test, the punishment was inevitable under the rules, but there will be sympathy for the Godolphin trainer among colleagues who maintain that products containing omeprazole are widely used to treat ulcers, a common condition for racehorses, and that it is not performance-enhancing.
Those wishing to see omeprazole excluded as a prohibited substance on raceday argue it tackles a health issue, and in that way is no different to antibiotics on which horses are permitted to run.
Newmarket trainer John Berry said: "Some horses have very sensitive digestions and ulcer treatments greatly improve their quality of life. I suppose it is to make them run faster because they're healthier, but it's to do with improving a horse's health rather than help them respond to training.
"We're allowed to use it, but horses have to come off it a few days before they run, although leaving them on it wouldn't make them run any faster. Saying they have to come off it before they run doesn't level the playing field, it doesn't make a fairer contest, all it means is that once in a while some poor trainer will find it takes longer to clear the system, which has happened with Saeed, and it attracts bad publicity for racing."
BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said: "We have a very clear policy that horses should be racing free from substances whose primary function is to have a physiological effect. Gastric ulcer treatments, by their nature, have an effect on a horse's digestive system and are therefore prohibited on raceday.
"Licensed treatments for gastric ulcers aren't banned from use in training. We accept the need for the use of appropriate medication in training for equine welfare purposes, but horses shouldn't be running with treatments in their system which have a physiological effect."
He added: "Antibiotics act primarily on the bacteria they're treating, rather than the horse's system, and are therefore permitted to be present on raceday, although they cannot be administered on the day of a race."