NEWMARKET, England -- The head of Godolphin ordered one of his stables in Newmarket locked down and a full round of blood tests carried out on all his horses after one of his trainers was charged Wednesday in a major doping scandal.
Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai, said he is “appalled and angered” that samples from 11 of his horses at the Moulton Paddocks stables were found to contain traces of anabolic steroids.
Trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni was charged with violating multiple rules related to banned substances, as well as failing to keep medication records and with conduct prejudicial to the sport. He will appear before a disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority on Thursday and could be stripped of his license.
“We will be locking down the Moulton Paddocks stables with immediate effect, and I have instructed that I want a full round of blood samples, and dope testing done on every single horse on that premises,” Sheik Mohammed said in a statement. “I can assure the racing public that no horse will run from that yard this season until I have been absolutely assured by my team that the entire yard is completely clean.”
The Godolphin operation has been scrutinized after routine checks by the BHA of 45 of Al Zarooni’s horses on April 9. Seven tested positive for ethylestranol and four for stanozolol — the same steroid found in the urine of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson in his positive test at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Al Zarooni said Monday he deeply regretted making a “catastrophic error,” saying the horses involved weren’t racing at the time so he “did not realize that what I was doing was in breach of the rules of racing.”
He has told investigating officers he administered four more horses with the prohibited substances, but they weren’t tested when the BHA visited Moulton Paddocks.
“I have been involved in British horse racing for 30 years and have deep respect for its traditions and rules,” Sheik Mohammed said. “I built my country based on the same solid principles. There can be no excuse for any deliberate violation.
“Godolphin is fully cooperating with the British Horseracing Authority to get to the bottom of this matter and take any appropriate disciplinary action.”
Sheikh Mohammed, who has owned a number of the world’s greatest horses since establishing his operation in 1992, was banned from endurance racing for six months in 2009 after his horse, Tahhan, tested positive for doping at an event in Bahrain.
Al Zarooni was fined $3,000 in August of last year after urine samples taken from two of his horses were found to contain a banned substance.
Al Zarooni, a former stable groom, has trained some high-profile winners, notably Monterosso in the 2012 Dubai World Cup — the world’s richest horse race — since being employed by Godolphin in 2010. He also had surprise winners in two of Britain’s classics — Blue Bunting in the 1,000 Guineas in 2011 and Encke in the St. Leger in 2012.
One of the horses that tested positive in the latest case is Certify, an unbeaten 3-year-old filly who would have been a leading contender for the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 5. Certify has been pulled from the race. British bookmakers said they would refund bets that have been placed on horses trained by Al Zarooni.