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By Ikram Khan
Friday 21 Apr 2017
Ikram Khan

It’s all happening at the Bangalore Turf Club. First the bookmakers were shunted out.  Next the club spent a fortune hosting the Indian Turf Invitation Cup. Then a no confidence motion was moved against the chairman Harindra Shetty and if that was not enough three horses tested positive for drugs, denting the image of the premier horse racing centre which resulted in a police complaint filed by Chandre Gowda, a owner and committee member of the Karnataka Racehorse Owners’ Association.  All this before GST which will hit the club hard taking into account that the proposed 18 percent tax on the 2000 crore annual turnover at the tote betting  is a sad commentary.

It is clear that the house is not in order. And no effort is made to clean up the mess. The members of the executive committee are busy playing Chinese Checkers and Chess, moving a couple of pawns to hunt down the King. The promotion of horse racing is put on the back burner and the many big investors in the game at this centre are losing confidence in the sport.  

Coming to the dope issue which is a topic of discussion in many coffee shops and sporting circles. It really is not as big and ugly as made out to be, but the fact is that many racing buffs including the old influential hats are not impressed by the politics played out in the committee room. And in this big fight the sport is a big loser. But who cares!

Neil Darashah-trained Queen Latifa who won the KROA Million in record time during the Invitation Cup week-end tested positive for an antibiotic Procaine Pencillin. The analytical report was made available to the Club by the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL), Delhi on March 23. Chief Stipendary Steward Pradyumna Singh, it is learnt informed Chief Executive Officer and former secretary of the Club Nirmal Prasad who told Pradyumna Singh that he would look into it and initiate action. In the complaint made to the police, Chandre Gowda pointed out that the normal procedure in the positive dope test cases is that the club immediately sends out a battery of vets to seal the stables of the horse trainer and the search for any banned drugs and syringes is conducted. But in this case no raid was conducted while raids were quickly conducted in the case of two other horses under the care of Dominic and Gregory Sandhu.

The fact of the matter is that Queen Latifa was treated at the BTC Veterinary hospital by the official veterinarian and the treatment was logged. The two other horses that were treated and tested positive were treated by private veterinarians – a permissible practice – however requiring the medication & treatment to be logged at the BTC veterinary hospital.

Calling it the biggest doping cover up scandal in the Indian racing history is a joke. Certain members contend however that it was intentional and done to protect a couple of influential owners of the horse. Whatever may be the case, it has only resulted in one big loss, the image of the club has been sullied and no single soul has gained a penny from this exercise. As it is not a case of “doping” and merely a case of infringement of clearance time of a prescription antibiotic the need for a “cover up” does not arise.

Queen Latifa’s urine sample showed 1-2 nanograms of Procaine Penicillin. It is far less than the 10 nanograms threshold level adopted by all the international labs while conducting tests on urine samples obtained from race horses. It is clear from this that NDTL has not been provided with the threshold levels by the racing clubs and that the second sample sent out to an international laboratory would come clean. But the argument here is why no search and seal in this case. This calls for an explanation and if the club had acted fast and provided their side of the story to the media it would not have got ugly. But that’s how BTC functions, playing the Tortoise in the Hare and Tortoise fable.

URBB Managing Director Zeyn Mirza while admitting that BTC were slow of the blocks and did nothing to control the damage said: “This is simply blown out of proportion and it is not so much the drug issue but personal agendas and this must stop.”

Well amongst all this poor Neil Darashah is painted black for no fault of his. His filly Queen Latifa was administered Procaine by the veterinary doctors of the BTC. The trainer observed the three week safety period and chose to race the horse after 25 days. The filly who had shown promise on debut won the race in emphatic fashion but as luck would have it retained a minute content of the drug in her system. It happens, but to frame a charge that Queen Latifa was administered a performance enhancing drug is all rubbish. It simply was an antibiotic and not an anabolic steroid which was detected in the sample and that too at an accepted level. Neil is clean. And it is time that the members of the Karnataka Trainers Association  (KTA)  stand up for the pro who is rated high in the game. But in this dog eat dog game will it happen? Well your guess is as good as mine.