The Jockey Club has been hit with another positive test for ketamine, with heavily-backed winner Shahjee the centre of the new inquiry.
In the past two years, young jockeys Marco Chui Kwan-lai and Kevin Leung Ka-wai have racked up three ketamine positives between them, two positives ending Chui's career and leaving Leung's in the balance pending a hearing.
While ketamine is proving to be a widespread social problem among people, finding it in Shahjee's post-race blood sample - a first in Hong Kong racing - seems more reasonable, since it is widely used by vets as an equine anaesthetic.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Shahjee was the target of a huge betting move before winning the William's Coach Handicap on Derby Day, March 20, his odds plunging from more than HK$80 for a HK$10 bet to HK$39. He led all the way to justify the move, and blood and urine samples were taken from the three-year-old, as is the case with all winners.
Yesterday, the stewards' panel was informed by the chief of the club's laboratory, Dr Terence Wan See-ming, that the post-race blood sample was found to contain ketamine and norketamine, and the urine sample contained dehydronorketamine and norketamine, metabolites of ketamine. Yiu was informed of the findings yesterday and the matter was adjourned to a date to be fixed.
The unused samples will be sent for testing at an independent laboratory before the inquiry is reopened.
Yiu has been involved twice in recent years as the trainer of horses returning positive drug tests, but in extenuating, even extraordinary, circumstances.
In March 2007, Elfhelm won and returned a positive test to the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone.
But Jockey Club security tapes at Yiu's Sha Tin stables showed Elfhelm had reached into another horse stall to help himself to the feed of a stablemate which was receiving treatment.
Rely On Me raced with anabolic steroids in his system in April 2008
The drugs were found to have been wrongly administered by a Jockey Club vet, but Yiu was fined HK$75,000 under rules dealing with his responsibility as the horse's trainer to present it drug-free for racing.