Club probes positive drug test by Elephant Dance

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2002, 12:00am

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is investigating a positive drug test returned by Elephant Dance after racing at Sha Tin on October 6 - the first such result involving a Hong Kong-trained horse in almost 2.5 years.

The Gary Ng Ting-keung-trained four-year-old finished fourth as the $24 favourite in the Harbin Handicap, earning $42,000 for his connections, but his post-race tests revealed the presence of the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone and its metabolite. The prohibited substance was not present in the pre-race sample taken the same day.

Phenylbutazone is used to help reduce pain and soreness. It is not considered to be performance-enhancing.

Chief stipendiary steward John Schreck yesterday visited Ng's stables to inform him of the finding, accompanied by senior veterinary surgeon Dr Keith Watkins, senior veterinary officer Dr Brian Stewart, stipendiary steward Tony Lam and principal investigator Neil Maloney.

Ng requested that the B sample be sent to an outside laboratory and the parties agreed to testing by the Laboratoire de la Federation Nationale des Societes de Courses in France. Stewards then adjourned the inquiry to a later date, pending those results.

'I don't want to say anything about this until we first have the independent test results for the B sample,' Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Jockey Club's director of racing, said last night. 'As the sample will go to another jurisdiction, the timing of this is out of our hands but we will seek to have the test results as soon as possible. Until then we will place a freeze on the prize-money earned by the horse in that race.'

Schreck yesterday issued a brief press release, explaining that Elephant Dance, like all favourites, had been required to give a routine urine sample after running on October 6 'in accordance with the usual practice of the Hong Kong Jockey Club'.

The release continued: 'The stewards have been advised by the Club's senior racing chemist, Dr Terrence Wan, that the sample provided by Elephant Dance on analysis was found to contain phenylbutazone and its metabolite, gamma-hydroxyphenylbutazone. He also said the post-race blood sample taken from Elephant Dance was found to contain phenylbutazone. Dr Wan, however, has advised that the pre-race urine sample taken from Elephant Dance did not contain phenylbutazone or its metabolite and has been declared negative.'

If the positive test is confirmed independently, it would mean that the drug came into Elephant Dance's system some time between pre-race testing on the morning of the meeting and the taking of the urine sample immediately after racing.

It is the first time that a positive result has come to light since the International meeting two years ago when two visitors were sensationally ordered out of their races. Australian horse Black Bean was withdrawn after testing positive to the prohibited decongestant Sputolysin, while American runner Falcon Flight tested positive for the cortico-steroid methylprednisolone.

The last case involving a horse trained in Hong Kong came in May 2000 when Grand Prize returned a positive test after winning at Happy Valley. Although the horse was disqualified, trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee was absolved of any wrongdoing as he was found to have followed veterinary advice.