Racing: Banned Godolphin horses to return

Godolphin have announced that some of the horses banned from racing due to the Mahmood Al Zarooni scandal, including St Leger winner Encke, will return to action in the coming months.

Andrew Thornton and High Ron (right) battle to victory at Southwell. Picture: PA
Andrew Thornton and High Ron (right) battle to victory at Southwell. Picture: PA

Encke has not been seen since he foiled Camelot’s bid to land the Triple Crown at Doncaster in 2012 but will go back into training with Charlie Appleby in Newmarket, with the intention of running in Europe later this year.

Steeler, who joined Godolphin from Mark Johnston after finishing third in the Racing Post Trophy in 2012, is in line to run on Thursday at Meydan, Dubai, while Certify, unbeaten as a juvenile in 2012 with wins in the May Hill and the Fillies’ Mile, will reappear later in the Carnival. Racing manager Simon Crisford told “We decided recently to continue with some of the horses who did not race last year. They include current entries Artigiano and Steeler plus Certify, who will be aimed at the top fillies’ contests during the Carnival. Encke is also in training and will go for races in Europe later in the year.”

A total of 22 former Al Zarooni-trained horses were suspended from racing between April and October last year after testing positive for banned anabolic steroids. Al Zarooni was banned for eight years.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Our Conor, the first three home in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas, are among seven entries for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle back at Leopardstown on 26 January.

Hurricane Fly will be bidding for an amazing 19th Grade One victory and, in an ominous warning to his younger rivals, trainer Willie Mullins predicts there is even more to come from the ten-year-old, who has won the Irish Champion for the past three years. “He seems to be in great form and he has come out of his race at Christmas well,” said the County Carlow handler. “This race was always the plan for him and I think there is a bit more improvement to come.”

Jessica Harrington’s Jezki performed admirably taking on the champion for the first time and may have finished even closer, but for meeting a little trouble in running. Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, said: “He ran a good race the last day and he has come out of it well and we are looking forward to running him again later on this month.”

Danny Mullins, who rides the Dessie Hughes-trained Our Conor, expects his mount to improve after the partnership finished third in the Ryanair.

He said: “It was his first run of the season and I think he will improve a good bit from that. He jumped the last upsides ‘The Fly’, and not too many horses do that. He is the best hurdle horse that I have ridden.”

Mullins can also chose from exciting unbeaten prospects in Annie Power and Un De Sceaux, as well as the veteran Thousand Stars. Eddie Harty’s Captain Cee Bee is the only other entry.

l A new year means Britain’s Flat trainers start again from zero but Jo Hughes was maintaining the momentum from her ground-breaking 2013 with another winner at Wolverhampton yesterday.

The Ladbrokes Selling Stakes, staged under a sombre sky, was hardly a race to stir the soul, especially as two months ago Hughes and her partner Paul Blockley were celebrating London Bridge’s Breeders’ Cup success at sunny Santa Anita.

Saharia (7-2) was adding to the stable’s victory with Luv U Whatever at Southwell on Friday by dropping back to the grade in which he had rattled off a four-timer for Mark Loughnane early last year. He made his first appearance for Hughes with a moderate showing at Lingfield last month but jockey Ben Curtis was in no rush here and sat behind his three rivals before coming with a strong late challenge to beat the Loughnane pair Prime Exhibit and Matraash by a length and a half.

Blockley said: “That’s two for 2014 so it’s a good start. I don’t know how we’ll beat winning in America but we’ve some nice two-year-olds and some more expensive ones than usual.”