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|Guilty Nicky Henderson faces losing licence for up to five
| Greg Wood
Nicky Henderson, one of jump racing's most senior trainers,
faces the possibility that he will lose his licence after the
disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority decided
yesterday that he had administered a banned and potentially
performance-enhancing drug to a runner owned by The Queen.
Henderson's mare Moonlit Path tested positive for
tranexamic acid, which is used to prevent internal bleeding, after
finishing unplaced in a novice hurdle at Huntingdon on 19 February. The
substance was administered via a syringe on the morning of the
A seven-hour hearing in London yesterday, at which
Henderson admitted a number of more minor breaches of the rules of racing
in connection with the case, also found him in breach of Rule 200, in that he
"allowed, or caused to be administered, or connived at the
administration of, tranexamic acid
either with the
intention of affecting her racing performance or in the knowledge that
her racing performance could be affected by such".
The possible penalties for a breach of Rule 200
range from a fine up to a suspension of Henderson's licence for five
years. The panel will reconvene next Monday to consider Henderson's
penalty, and will also consider any mitigating circumstances before
it is confirmed.
Henderson looked tired and shocked as he left the
hearing, in the City of London offices of the BHA's solicitors. He refused to
comment on the decision.
Henderson's only public comment on the case
is a statement issued on his behalf last month by the National Trainers'
Federation. In the statement, he said that "the substance concerned was
administered by my vet entirely in the interests of the horse's welfare,
which is always paramount. There was no intention to enhance
The simple fact that Henderson allowed a banned substance
to be administered to one of his horses on a race-day is hugely embarrassing in
itself. However, that it was also one of the very few jumping horses owned by
the Queen will compound the distress, and Henderson must fear that he will lose
his royal patronage, regardless of any penalty that may be handed down by the
It had been expected that Henderson's penalty would
be imposed yesterday, but the panel decided that the breach was sufficiently
serious to require further consideration.
To date, the largest fine
imposed on any British trainer is £20,000, which was handed down to
Michael Wigham in March 2008 after he was found in breach of the non-trier
rules for the second time in less than a year. Wigham's licence was also
suspended for 35 days.
The next-highest fine dates back 21 years, to
1998, when David Elsworth was fined £17,500 after Cavvies Clown tested
positive for a prohibited substance.
Henderson, 58, has enjoyed great
success throughout his 31-year training career. Last season, though, was
one of his most successful for several years, and included a Champion Hurdle
win with Punjabi. In all, Henderson's horses won more than £2 m in prize
He now faces an anxious seven days as he awaits the panel's
penalty. The staff at his Seven Barrows yard in Lambourn will face uncertainty
too, although Henderson would be able to transfer his licence to an assistant
if his suspension is relatively brief. The summer months are also a quiet time
for his yard, which would not expect to bring out its best hurdlers and chasers
until October at the earliest.