Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Gordon Elliott “Face Value (GB)” Referral

Punchestown, 12th October 2011

The Referrals Committee, Judge Tony Hunt (in the Chair), John G. Moloney and J.R. Craigie met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on 23rd January 2012, to consider a report from BHP Laboratories in Limerick stating that the biological fluid sample taken from “Face Value (GB)”, trained by Gordon Elliott, following its win in the Go Racing in Kildare Festival 3-y-o Maiden Hurdle at Punchestown on 12th October 2011, was found to contain Phenylbutazone which, under Rule 20(v) and Regulation R14, is a prohibited substance.  This result was confirmed by the testing of the “B” sample at Laboratoire de Courses Hippiques in France at the request of the trainer.

Evidence was heard from Dr. Thomas Barragry and from Gordon Elliott.

Dr. Barragry said that Phenylbutazone is classified as a Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Steroid.

It has three key pharmacological actions:-
(1) Antipyretic: - Reduces fever
(2) Analgesic: - Relieves pain
(3) Anti inflammatory: - Removes local heat, pain, swelling, and loss of function, in inflamed limbs and joints.


He said that Phenylbutazone is the standard anti inflammatory drug used to treat pain and lameness in affected horses and that following administration of the drug, local inflammation and pain subsides, and the animal is thus able to use and put weight on the affected limb. Hence the drug is clearly advantageous to the subsequent performance of the horse.

Dr. Barragry stated that Phenylbutazone is administered by injection, and can also be given orally in the feed to horses.  He said that the urinary excretion time of phenylbutazone can be highly variable. He also said that no threshold exists for the compound.  Dr. Barragry noted that there is always a remote possibility that phenylbutazone could inadvertently enter the horse’s system as a result of cross contamination of feed or bedding from another horse that is receiving treatment and that this possibility is alluded to in the Turf Club’s “Guidelines to Trainers”, and it is clearly pointed out in that document that treated horses should not be stabled in proximity to untreated horses.

He concluded by stating that Phenylbutazone is a clear and unambiguous example of a prohibited substance, under Rule 20 (Drugs affecting the musculoskeletal system).  The drug, by virtue of it’s anti inflammatory and pain relieving pharmacological properties, affects racing performance. He said that Phenylbutazone, cannot gain entry to the horse’s blood and urinary system, other than by extraneous administration.  It is not a natural feed constituent.

In his evidence, Gordon Elliott said he had no idea how Face Value (GB) tested positive for Phenylbutazone as the horse was not on any treatment and the substance hadn’t been administered. He said that only one horse in the yard was on Phenylbutazone at the time and his only explanation for what occurred was that there must have been cross contamination in some way.  He said that he found it hard to believe that Face Value (GB) was positive which is why he asked for the “B” sample to be tested.  In conclusion he said he accepted the findings of the laboratory.

Having considered the evidence the Committee said they found Gordon Elliott in breach of Rule 96 and Regulation R14 in respect of the finding of Phenylbutazone in the sample and fined him €1,500.   He was also ordered to pay costs of €675.

The Committee also disqualified “Face Value (GB)” from first place and ordered the records be amended to read as follows:

First:  Hollymount King
Second: Bad Cigar
Third:  Chart Master
Fourth:  Why But Why (USA)

The case was presented to the Committee by Conal Boyce, Wilkinson & Price Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare. 


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