Even though horseracing at Pune seemed uneventful since the start of the season a month ago, the news of a horse testing positive for a banned drug has created a sensation in the racing circles here. Although it’s the first case of a horse failing the drug test this season what has certainly taken the racing fraternity surprise is that the horse in question, Excellent Sorrento, has come positive for cobalt. This is also the first case of its kind to surface at Royal Western India Turf Club and falls under category 3 of the club’s list of banned drug substances.
A couple of Australian horse-trainers and a veterinarian were banned in 2016 for three to five years for cobalt administration, yet there is no established evidence to prove that it enhances the performance of horses.
Regardless, in his solitary appearance on the inaugural day of this season, Malesh Narredu trained Excellent Sorrento had ended last in the seven-horse field. It was observed, after the race, that the bay colt had broken a blood vessel hence his urine sample was collected for detection of prohibited drug substances.
As luck would have it, Excellent Sorrento’s urine sample returned positive for cobalt. This case is identical to that of trainer MK Jadhav’s horse, Mohican Sun, which tested positive for Venlafaxine on being compulsorily sampled after a broken blood vessel in 2015.
Excellent Sorrento’s report was placed before the RWITC stewards’ body on Wednesday and preliminary investigations were launched. Narredu is now required to submit mitigating circumstances, if any, for the drug’s presence in his ward’s urine sample. Strangely, this incident finds no mention in the latest race-day reports published by the club. The publication of race-day report was delayed this week apparently because the chief stipe was in Mumbai for a Board of Appeal hearing.
Meanwhile, on Sunday last, the RWITC authorities decided to ban the entry of former bookmakers and their staff from the racecourse premises, both at Mumbai and Pune. This move was initiated after a drastic drop in the club’s income from Mumbai-based bookmakers, who have discontinued their business recently.
While on their visit to Mahalaxmi Race Course, the chief stipe and other officials asked some ex-bookies and their staff to leave the premises. While the RWITC reserves the rights of admission to the racecourse and is justified in refusing entry to ex-bookies who are indulging in illegal activities, the idea to ban their employees is downright ridiculous if not atrocious.
Furthermore, the club has decided to deny entry to bookmakers and their staff if they are not operating on days when racing is held at other centres. The club is unaware that, in the process, scores of employees are being deprived of their livelihood.
The club must understand that not every former bookie engages in illegal activity nor does the staff. Some do have valid reasons like medical conditions or financial difficulties for stopping their business.
Recently, several individuals were accused of accepting illegal bets and are barred from entering the racecourse. Ironically, the chief stipe turns a blind eye to the rampant illegal betting which takes place right under his nose. The club should, in the interest of the sport, reassess its decision which is being perceived as anti-racing and inhumane.