Newmarket: Fears Godolphin operation could quit town after more drugs revelations

Gerard Butler's Newmarket yard is currently at the centre of a British Horseracing Authority investi

Gerard Butler's Newmarket yard is currently at the centre of a British Horseracing Authority investigation, it has been confirmed. - Credit: PA

THERE were fears last night that Godolphin, one of the world’s leading horse racing stables, could quit Newmarket after the town was rocked by another scandal.

Newmarket trainer Gerard Butler was yesterday revealed to be under investigation by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) after samples from several of his horses were found to contain an anabolic steroid.

Mr Butler claims he gave his horses the drugs as treatment for joint problems under advice from a vet.

The news comes just days after fellow Newmarket trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni was handed an eight-year ban for administering steroids to 15 horses under his care.

And now Newmarket councillor and horse trainer of 18 years John Berry fears Godolphin – led by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – may decide to quit the headquarters of British racing.

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“There is a very real danger he might get fed up with it all and decide to walk away,” said Mr Berry. “That would be disastrous for racing, and particularly disastrous for Newmarket.

“Racing is by far and away the biggest employer in the area and he employs a lot of people here. It would be a big blow.

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“There is a black cloud over Newmarket – a black cloud of suspicion. People will think ‘another Newmarket steroids story’. There is a big danger here. Al Zarooni brought shame on the town – I am angry with him. But Gerard Butler was very unlucky because he unwittingly gave his horses the drug based on bad vet advice, which the BHA were aware of.

“But Al Zarooni was a rotten apple. The brush with which he tarnished himself has tarnished us all. We could all be the victims now.”

It is thought around 70% of the people who live in Newmarket owe their living – directly or indirectly – to horse racing.

More than 350,000 people attend Newmarket’s racecourses every year and the Queen’s horses are trained in the town.

Simon Curtis, a farrier who has worked every day in Newmarket for more than 30 years, warned of the drug scandal’s “catastrophic effects”.

“It might only be the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “People here have a lot of pride for the sport and it’s worrying because people may start to lose confidence. You wonder whether trainers are going to take their horses out of training here. What are the ramifications going to be?”

Mr Butler said vets told him 100 horses in Newmarket have been treated with the same drug, named Sungate, a joint treatment which contains a prohibited substance, the anabolic steroid stanozolol.

It is the same drug found in disgraced Canadian athlete Ben Johnson, who was stripped of his 1988 Seoul Olympic Games gold medal and world-record time.

David Mountford, chief executive of the British Equine Veterinary Association, said Sungate was a new drug used to treat arthritic damage in joints. “It is very different to the one Al Zarooni used,” he said. “It is not performance-enhancing.”

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