START FROM SCRATCH. That’s what former Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni will do as he bids to resurrect his career after an eight year banishment from the sport. The Emirati conditioner’s sole mission now, apart from trying to pile on the winners, will be to ‘clean my name’.
The 45yo had been handed an eight year ban by a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) disciplinary panel after 11 horses in his care tested positive for the anabolic steroids ethylestranol and stanozolol. The decision to ban him was reciprocated worldwide, turning Al Zarooni into a castaway.
But with the ban ending in April, Al Zarooni can resume working in horse racing once again and has joined forces with Marwan Abdul Rahman, who has been working as an assistant trainer in Dubai. The pair, however, are setting up at Sharjah Racing & Equestrian Club and will dispatch horses from their yard there, with Al Zarooni already getting his licence approved by the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA), the governing body for the sport in the United Arab Emirates.
Al Zarooni said: “I applied for my licence to the Emirates Racing Authority and they approved it. I want to come back and show that Mahmood wasn’t cheating. I want to clean my name. “I made a big mistake and I learned from my mistake.
I want to prove that I was clean, I was trying my best to be clean but this mistake happened.” Al Zarooni trained three Classic winners during his time in charge of one of Godolphin’s two Newmarket stables. His major wins included the 1000 Guineas and Oaks with Blue Bunting in 2011, the Dubai Sheema Classic and Prince of Wales’s Stakes with Rewilding the same year, and the Dubai World Cup in 2012 with Monterosso.
His last Classic victory was with Encke, who won the 2012 St Leger denying Camelot a historic Triple Crown after the Coolmore colt had won the 2000 Guineas and Derby. Speaking of his return to the training ranks where it all began for him, Al Zarooni added: “Marwan had talked to me about doing something together.
“When my ban finished and I received my clearance we decided to have a public stable and we will be based in the Sharjah Equestrian Club. “Sheikh Adbullah bin Majid [chairman of Sharjah Equestrian & Racing Club] is one of the founders of the sport of horse racing here and has always been a grateful supporter to all small trainers and owners.
I have been one of them during my early days before joining Godolphin. I would like to thank him for his support and hope my second rising will be from his centre. “Sharjah has everything you need in terms of facilities so I hope we can do good. I hope owners will support us.
I would like to have some international owners, especially English owners, because I receive many messages from them asking me to come to Newmarket. I love and miss Newmarket, but it’s difficult to do that at this time. “Marwan is a horse guy, he’s been an assistant trainer for about four years. I think we can do good.
“The stable is ready and we have around 20 horses there already. I have been visiting every two or three days but from next month I will be full time. We have to start from the bottom and see where we can reach. It won’t be easy.” But Al Zarooni is determined to roll up his sleeves and chisel a path back into racing for himself.
“Eight years was too harsh,” said Al Zarooni who has 37 winners on Emirates soil. “I am not saying I shouldn’t have been punished. I had to be punished, but I think eight years was like a sentence for killing someone. I thought they would ban me for three years, four years maximum.
So I am still feeling bitter.” He added: “I am very happy to be back doing what I like. It’s been a very tough eight years. Working with horses is like a drug, so to be away from them hurt. I am very happy that I will be with them again. “I am sure it will be a very difficult time to start with the coronavirus situation as there is a shortage of Asian riders and I am too heavy to ride.
We will start from zero again and try our best.” Al Zarooni is expected to take over at the ARMS racing operation, whose trainer Mujeeb Rahman has been issued a two year ban by the ERA, after his horses tested positive for prohibited substances. Former UAE Champion Trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi has also been handed a one year ban for a similar offence.