Leading Macau trainer Gary Moore has been fined HK$500,000 - a sum believed to equal the world record - for a positive drug test returned by one of his horses, but will be allowed to continue his fight for the championship.
Moore, seven times champion Hong Kong jockey and a multiple championship-winning trainer in Macau, sent out Francis to finish runner-up in the Listed Lisboa Challenge in April, after which the horse returned a positive to atenolol.
The monetary component of the fine equals the HK$500,000 fine handed out by the Macau Jockey Club in 2009 to Stephen Leung Sik-lun, who had seven positive drug tests, although Leung was also disqualified for two years.
'Normally, in past cases in Macau, trainers with a positive drug test have been fined as well as suspended or disqualified,' said the Macau Jockey Club director of racing, Michael Beattie.
'However, Gary Moore put to us a significant plea to consider a fine only, rather than action against his licence, as he is involved in a tight race to retain his trainers' championship. So the fine today is a calculation based on the fine plus ban which would usually have been the case and we felt there should be a premium on it as it occurred in a black type [listed] race.'
Atenolol is a drug used in humans for the treatment of hypertension by slowing the heart.
It does not appear by name on the list of banned substances but comes under the general heading of a beta blocker drug, and all such drugs are prohibited.
In the late 1980s, Sydney racing was struck by a rash of findings of the drug timolol, also a beta blocker, used as a highly effective go-slow on short-priced favourites.
'Yes, in significant amounts, it is a go-slow but we aren't talking a significant amount in this case,' Beattie said. 'However, under the rules, there is no acceptable threshold for beta blockers. Other than that, I have no further comment as Gary Moore has a right of appeal.'
Moore called on his brother John, Hong Kong's reigning champion trainer, to give evidence at yesterday's inquiry as an expert witness on what Moore described as 'a contamination case'.
'I am absolutely shocked at the size of the fine for a minuscule amount of the drug present,' said John Moore yesterday.
'It certainly means I will reserve judgment on whether I want to take the risk of running horses in the interport races in Macau in the future if this can happen and I'm sure the other Hong Kong trainers will have a good think about it, too.'
John Moore was not charged in a Hong Kong 'contamination case' in 2010, when a sample from his horse, Ming Hoi Treasure, was found after a race to contain a minute amount of a banned substance which was never officially identified but is believed to have been cocaine.
Chief steward Kim Kelly said at that time that he had informed Moore of the presence of the drug as a courtesy to the trainer.
Kelly said that the Jockey Club analyst had 'formed the view that the presence of the substance could have had no influence on performance' and that the evidence was 'overwhelming that the level detected would very likely be due to inadvertent exposure of the horse to the substance close to the race.'
Another Hong Kong trainer, Ricky Yiu Poon-fai, had a contamination case with Shahjee returning a ketamine positive in March last year.
The horse was found to have had contact with the drug via normal daily routines involving his mafoo, who had a previous history of drug use, and who was subsequently warned off by the club.