Author: Howard Wright

Only a few more weeks to go and the new UAE season will burst into action. Senior officials are back behind their desks from the summer break. Trainers and stable staff are starting to get the early runners into serious work. But for two sets of people it seems to have been business as usual since Meydan drew down its curtain on the 2018/19 season in mid April. The Emirates Racing Authorities’ veterinary team, particularly those responsible for testing for prohibited substances, including those discovered out of competition, and the stewards, who have had to deliberate on a number of breaches of the rules, have been hard at it since then.

The result of all this activity is that three trainers have been banned for a year apiece and two others have had to pay quite hefty fines for their indiscretions. The latest, and easily the most visible of the quintet, to feel the wrath of the stewards was Rashed Bouresly, who is formally registered by the ERA as operating under the flag of Kuwait but runs his sizeable string from stables in Ras Al Khaimah. Ironically, Bouresly, whose horses carry the distinctive orange colours of the family owned Bouresly Racing Syndicate, had his best ever season in the UAE in 2018/19, ending with a win for Ajwad in the Nad Al Sheba Classic at Meydan on the last day of the campaign. Ajwad, whom the ultra enthusiastic and always optimistic Bouresly bought for £26,000 at the Doncaster Yearling Sales in 2014, had won the Zabeel Trophy only a week previously and in total contributed four of the stable’s 12 wins, as many as he trained in the previous four years put together. He started the season just sneaking in at the top of a 0-65 handicap at Sharjah and ended it rated 105.

Not since Star Crowned won five sprints between 2008 and 2010 has Bouresly, who seems to employ as many jockeys in a season as he has horses, had such a decent performer to represent him. While Bouresly is perfectly capable of picking out a decent racehorse, it seems he is not so adept at spotting a rogue element or two in his medication cabinet, as the ERA veterinary team discovered when they paid him a visit on 25 June to carry out a routine stable inspection. The subsequent and eminently readable stewards’ report, which runs to 1,159 words and followed his being charged with a series of breaches of the rules, notes that blood samples were taken from five horses for conducting out of competition testing. More than that, ‘a numerous amount of substances were removed due to being out of date’ and nine treatments were confiscated for further analysis ‘as their therapeutic veterinary use was unknown’.

No prohibited substance was found in the six blood samples, but two of the treatments alarmed the test tube analysers, since one contained a substance that ‘works exactly like an anabolic steroid’ and another contained the potentially deadly substance strychnine, although the stewards were satisfied that Bouresly could not have known the latter was present in the treatment since there was no mention in the list of ingredients.

With no previous breaches of the relevant rules to his name and no evidence that the treatment likened to a steroid had been given to a horse, Bouresly was fined Dh50,000 and told to stop buying products from ‘non reputable companies’. The series of cases was set off within a week of large scale attention being diverted from the region after the Dubai World Cup meeting, when Saeed Al Shamsi was fined Dh30,000 following Sword Of Truth’s testing positive for the banned substance Trometamol, a diuretic, following his fourth placing in a maiden race at Jebel Ali in February. Al Shamsi, who recently took over from his father Rashed Musbeh Salem Al Shamsi in running the Al Shahama Equestrian Club in Abu Dhabi, is credited in the ERA statistics with having trained his first winner among the 69 runners he sent out in 2018/19.

For three other trainers the prospect of delivering any runners to UAE racecourses in the next 12 months has been removed. Omar Daraj, Ahmed Al Shamsi and Ali Jan, who splits his time between Desert 2 Stables in the UAE and his native Bahrain, were all disqualified for a year for offences relating to unacceptable levels of cobalt found in post race tests. Jan, who was also fined Dh10,000 in a separate case after he pleaded guilty to not providing sufficient analgesia to a horse who had his front legs blistered, appealed against the severity of the cobalt ban, but that was turned down by the panel. Omar Daraj, who operates from Al Shamal Stables and failed to train a winner from 24 runners in 2018/19, and Ahmed Al Shamsi, who is based in Ajman and saddled a single winner from 68 runners last season, accepted the test findings, which were verified by laboratories in England and Hong Kong respectively.

The UAE helped to pioneer testing for cobalt, which has had its most serious consequences in Australia, but it seems the message has not yet filtered through to some local trainers. The outsider might also wonder what actual benefit derives from administering the substance. The horse in Ali Jan’s case finished ninth of 16 behind Rashed Bouresly’s Ajwad no less; in Omar Daraj’s he was 11th of 15, and in Ahmed Al Shamsi’s he was 12th of 14.

ERA anti-doping team kept busy