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Substances that ‘shouldn’t have been in the country’ seized in Ballintogher raid | Horse racing


The fallout continued on Sunday from last week’s raid at Ballintogher Stud in Ireland’s County Kildare which led to the seizure of a significant quantity of unlicensed drugs, as the Sunday Independent published details of a phone conversation involving John Warwick, an equine therapist who operates from the stud, as well as naming some of the trainers who sent horses for treatment by Warwick over a period of several weeks in the summer.

In a separate interview with the Racing Post, meanwhile, Warwick admitted that he had been in possession of substances which should not have been in Ireland when the stud was raided, while also insisting there was “no dope” involved in the seizure.

Officials from Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine arrived at Ballintogher Stud on Tuesday, accompanied by police officers, and subsequently invited officials from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, including Lynn Hillyer, the IHRB’s chief veterinary officer, to attend. Hair and blood samples were then taken from all thoroughbreds found on site.

Warwick, 74, has been a specialist in equine tendon problems for many years, and has been credited with assisting such top-class performers as Snow Fairy, the 2010 Oaks winner, overcome potentially career-ending injuries.

In the Sunday Independent details emerged of a phone conversation between Warwick and an unnamed individual, which the newspaper said had been recorded seven months ago, in which the therapist says that he runs a clinic at Ballintogher Stud for two or three days “every couple of weeks” which is “unbelievably busy”.

Warwick says that his clinic involves “physical stuff” rather than drugs or surgery, and also claims to have “spent quite a lot of time in the States”, where he “learned a lot of things which are not really used here”, adding that “they have products that we don’t have, can’t have, are not supposed to have, whatever you want to call it”.

The paper also revealed that a private investigator stationed outside Ballintogher Stud for several weeks during the summer photographed 56 horse boxes entering the premises. These included four which were branded with the names of licensed trainers: Jessica Harrington, Enda Bolger, Peter Fahey and Noel C Kelly.

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When contacted for comment, Fahey and Kelly both told the paper that they had never sent horses to Warwick, while Bolger said that he had not used the therapist for about 20 years. All three subsequently expressed surprise that one of their horse boxes had been photographed at Ballintogher.

Harrington, meanwhile, said that she had been sending horses with tendon injuries for laser treatment by Warwick for a number of years, adding: “As far as I’m concerned [Warwick] has dealt with my horses for tendon injuries. And that’s it. And that does not involve drugs.”

The directors of Ballintogher Stud include TJ Comerford, a travelling head lad at Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stable. O’Brien told the Sunday Independent that Warwick had “never” worked for him, and that he had previously been unaware that Comerford was a director of the stud.

In an interview published in Sunday’s edition of the Racing Post, Warwick said: “There is nothing [in the seizure] that would fail a dope test but I’ve certainly contravened the rules.” He added: “There were some products that were destined for Kuwait and I brought them with me because I was flying to Kuwait but that’s beside the point. They shouldn’t have been in the country in the first place as far as the law is concerned.”

Irish stables drew a blank on the final day of Cheltenham’s November meeting as Paul Nicholls saddled a 59-1 treble – the champion trainer’s first winners at the track for just over a year – and his former assistant Dan Skelton continued his strong run of form with a 38-1 double in the feature races on the card.

Nube Negra (9-4) saw off the last two winners of the Queen Mother Champion Chase with a comfortable success in the Grade Two Shloer Chase, while West Cork (11-1) returned from a 631-day layoff to win the ultra-competitive Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.

Nube Negra was beaten a neck by Put The Kettle On in last season’s Champion Chase but finished just over 10 lengths in front of Henry de Bromhead’s mare on Sunday and was cut to around 10-1 (from 20-1) to confirm the form with a win in the two-mile chasing championship at the Festival in March.

“That’s about as much fun in the last hour that I’ve ever had on a racecourse,” Skelton said after West Cork’s win.

“This game is definitely not easy, but it’s currently fun. Nube Negra is very special to us because [Skelton’s wife] Gracie’s stallion, Dink, is his sire, and then to have a horse to come back off a 600-day layoff and win a Greatwood is just a great advertisement for the whole team.”

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