Two contracted workers at Newcastle racecourse have been suspended after an investigation was launched by the BHA into suspicions a horse was doped to underperform at the track last month.
The Mick Easterby-trained Ladies First tested positive for a beta-blocking drug after the 6-4 favourite was beaten 22 lengths and finished eighth of nine behind Alexandrakollontai in a mile fillies’ handicap.
Ladies First, owned and bred by Reg Bond, had won at York 12 days earlier before finishing down the field on the all-weather at Newcastle.
While it is not known precisely the effect beta-blockers have on horses, it is believed they slow the heart rate and therefore can manipulate performance, while also reducing the impact of stress hormones.
Beta-blockers are commonly used by humans to reduce blood pressure, slowing the heart beat by arresting the effects of adrenalin.
David Easterby, assistant to father Mick, said on Wednesday: “The BHA turned up and told us we’d failed a test for a beta-blocker. I personally had a bet on her, a double with Arrowtown, and was expecting Ladies First to run well, and my dad did a treble including her.
“She’d run well on the all-weather before, and on the handicap she was a racing certainty being well-in from her York win, so it was a shock to see her finish 20-odd lengths back. We looked for every conceivable excuse for her below-par run and couldn’t find one.
“We checked her cycle, being a filly, and that was fine. Scott [McCullagh] said she hung early, but when we got her back home she was perfectly fine and we couldn’t find a single thing wrong with her. We just put it down to it being one of those things, as you have to do in racing."