by Grant Morgan
This weeks swab irregularity for Magic Millions winner Alligator Blood highlights a serious inadequacy in how non performance enhancing substances are treated in Australian racing.
We’ve really become a ‘nanny state’. We are captive to the politically correct that wish to wrap us all in rules and regulations, flying in the face of common sense and true horsemanship.
The Alligator Blood ‘positive’ is to a substance used to regulate the ovulation of mares, Altrenogest. Most fillies and mares have been treated with it, including wonder mares Black Caviar, Winx and Makybe Diva. And so they should.
The important thing that the average ‘punter’ needs to know, Altrenogest is not a ‘go fast’ substance. It’s simply a drug that helps regulate aggressive behaviour in fillies and mares ‘in season’, particularly in Spring. It acts to help keep the horses safe, and more importantly, those riding and handling them.
It serves absolutely no purpose to enhance the performance of a gelding.
This week respected Sydney vet Dr Nick Kannegieter confirmed on Radio with Steve Hewlett that it could in fact, have the opposite impact in the right quantity, when administered on a gelding.
So let me say this. I have absolutely no doubt that David Vandyke or any of his staff have intentionally administered this substance to Alligator Blood.
Why the hell would they?
So the only conclusions we can draw (if you accept the ‘glass half full’ approach) is the horse has ingested the substance accidentally; or, the substance has been administered intentionally by a third party (not under the direction of David Vandyke), with the intent to harm the horse or impact connections.
I’m an optimist, so I truly hope the former is correct. ‘Nobbling’ is a ghastly business and one I’d like to think we’ve left well behind.
For the statistically minded among you, consider this.
Prior to his Magic Millions win, Alligator Blood had been swabbed without issue on 8 occasions in Queensland and Victoria, with no irregularities. Subsequent to his Magic Millions win, he also returned a clear swab at his next appearance when victorious at Flemington.
As yet the swab results from his Australian Guineas win and All Star Mile defeat, have not been processed. But I know what result I’m betting on, in both cases.
As Dr Nick Kannegieter also pointed out during his interview, horses have a way of cross contaminating each other. He used the example of a mare who receives an oral paste, with the 'leftovers' still on the outside of her mouth, nuzzling up against a stable mate next door and sharing. It’s that easy.
So too is the issue of feed contamination. Horses can ingest small doses of substances from various food sources, causing minor swab irregularities.
The problem is, some of our swab regulations do not seem to be taking this into proper account. More and more we want to charge trainers as being guilty, without a common sense approach for these issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for outlawing the extreme ‘go fast’ or ‘go slow’ drugs. But low levels of non performance enhancing substances should not ring alarm bells.
I really feel for trainers like David Vandyke who immediately get their name dragged into the gutter by this process. Much of the general public immediately convict on a headline alone. And it’s convenient for many, thanks to social media. Classic tall poppy syndrome.
David isn’t the first trainer this has happened too, and sadly, he won’t be the last.
Horses, like human athletes, do need treatment for various conditions and ailments. This doesn’t make them ‘go fast’ or ‘go slow’.
I just hope that as an industry we don’t continue to descend into this ‘nanny state’ thinking.