Racing: Trainer Butler charged over Sungate drug

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Trainer Gerard Butler has been charged by the British Horseracing Authority over his use of the drug Sungate, which contains a banned anabolic steroid.

The Newmarket handler admitted to being subject to a BHA investigation concerning the joint treatment, which was developed by an Italian company and contains stanozolol.

While it is legal to use the drug in Britain when it is imported under licence, the active ingredient is a prohibited substance in racing. Butler admitted in a newspaper interview that several horses in his stable were treated for joint injuries after receiving assurances from a veterinary practice, and he entered this into his official medical records. The trainer has been charged with seven breaches of the rules, with the BHA confirming nine of his horses had tested posititve for stanozolol when samples were taken on 20 February. He has been charged with acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and/or good reputation of horseracing by administering the steroid. Butler also faces further charges relating to injecting the horses joints himself, which is contrary to the Rules of racing as he is not a qualified or registered veterinary surgeon. He is also charged with two counts of failing to keep a record of treatments for several horses.

Butler now faces a BHA disciplinary panel hearing, the date of which has yet to be confirmed. Roger Varian could be set for a big day at Haydock, with Eton Forever looking the rock-solid option in the Timeform Jury Stakes. A really likeable character, he returned as good as ever to win a Listed race at this venue when he beat subsequent Epsom scorer Gregorian by a head. That was an especially creditable effort as he was conceding a penalty to all of his rivals - but he did have his optimum conditions of good to soft ground. The going will be much quicker this weekend but he has performed well on a fast surface before, without actually winning.

The other Group 3 is the BetVictor Royal Ascot Money Back Pinnacle Stakes, in which the Varian-trained Ambivalent will take all the beating if she reproduces her level of performance in the Middleton Stakes at York on her reappearance. Richard Hannon’s Ligeia should win the Relyon Cleaning Newbury Maiden Auction Fillies´ Stakes at Newbury, with Rajnagan taken to strike in the Limerick Warwickshire Hound Handicap Chase at Stratford.

In New York meanwhile, Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness Stakes champion Oxbow could decide Triple Crown supremacy in tonight’s Belmont Stakes but fresher horses and wet conditions may dictate the action. Sloppy conditions may be in store for the 14-horse field in the final race of the thoroughbred series as rain is forecast. Orb, who won on a muddy track at Churchill Downs, was made early favorite at 3-1 with Oxbow a 5-1 pick, while third-place Derby finisher Revolutionary, who skipped the Preakness, was installed as the second choice at 9-2 for the $1 million race.

While Orb and Oxbow were lined up in a natural showdown following victories in the first two Triple Crown races, history weighs against their return to the winner’s circle. Of the past 15 Belmonts, which is the longest test of the series at a mile and a half, all but two were taken by horses who won neither the Derby nor the Preakness. Orb will be trying to register the first Derby-Belmont double since Thunder Gulch in 1995, while Oxbow is shooting for the first Preakness-Belmont double since Afleet Alex in 2005.

Coming off a frustrating race at Pimlico, where Orb drew the number one starting position and found it hard to find running room on his way to fourth place, trainer Shug McGaughey believes a return to his home track of Belmont and drawing the fifth gate will suit his horse. “On paper, there is going to be a bit of a pace, so he’ll be able to kind of drop out of it and dictate what he wants to do,” said McGaughey.