Allan backs Cruz's call to allow use of preventive medication

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2006, 12:00am

Retired champion trainer Ivan Allan yesterday added his weight to Tony Cruz's call for a change to Jockey Club regulations, allowing horses to train on preventive medication.

Allan, winner of three titles as Hong Kong's champion trainer, recalled his often-heated battles with the club's senior vet Keith Watkins over this very issue.

'No one is suggesting that the ideal of drug-free racing should be tampered with - racing should be 100 per cent drug free, no argument,' said Allan - Hong Kong's most successful big-race trainer for a decade.

'But the lines between illegal drugs and legitimate medications have become blurred in some people's minds and caused a lot of unnecessary confusion.'

Allan said there was 'no doubt' that Hong Kong horses faced a greater risk of having excessive mucus problems in their lungs and trachea, or mucopus if there was an infection component in it. However, he has his doubts that it's a pollution problem as Cruz believes.

'The stables at Sha Tin were designed and constructed a certain way, with all horses being enclosed and therefore breathing the same air,' Allan said. 'This is rarely the case in most overseas racing stables. In America for example, the stalls are built back to back and a horse can put his head over the door and breathe fresh air.

'In Hong Kong they cannot - and the Jockey Club needs to understand that they have actually created the environment that is the cause of the problem.'

After Saturday's racing at Sha Tin, Cruz responded angrily when he found that odds-on favourite Dream Horse, who finished at the tail of the field, had scoped with a grade-two mucus reading, as well as blood in the lungs and trachea at [maximum] grade-four level.

He said punters were being burned by putting their faith in favourites like Dream Horse, and another beaten odds-on favourite Legionnaire the previous week, when they had a hidden mucus problem might have been eradicated with the use of preventive medication.

Cruz called on the Jockey Club to review its policy on medications, recognising the benefits that would come from allowing horses to train on recognised anti-mucus medication and then withdrawing the treatment at the appropriate number of days before a race to ensure its total elimination from the horse's body.

Allan described Cruz's idea as '100 per cent right'. 'Prevention is better than cure,' he said. 'The two most important considerations here are firstly, the welfare of the horse and secondly, the punter - he must be protected.

'At the moment, the punter is doing his money on these horses and is not getting a fair go. And I agree with Tony, it is preventable.'