Morrison escapes with minor punishment for failed test

Trainer Hughie Morrison.
Trainer Hughie Morrison.
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TRAINER Hughie Morrison has spoken of his relief after being handed the minimum fine of £1,000 – and attached no blame – after one of his horses failed a drugs test at the start of the year.

The Royal Ascot-winning handler attended a two-day hearing at BHA headquarters in London earlier this week, a case with more mystery and intrigue than a Dick Francis thriller, with Our Little Sister having tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone following a race at Wolverhampton on January 14.

East Ilsley-based Morrison, 57, vehemently denied any wrongdoing and even offered a £10,000 cash reward for anyone that could help prove his innocence after the charges were first announced in May.

On the BHA disciplinary panel verdict, Morrison, who feared losing his licence and business, said: “I can’t really comment as I don’t want to say the wrong thing and there will be a statement.

“However, we’re obviously over the moon. There’s no ban, we’ve been completely exonerated so the hell of the last 11 months can be forgotten. All my staff are having a celebration now and it’s very emotional.”

Our Little Sister returned a positive test after she finished last of eight runners in an extended two-mile handicap in which she was sent off at odds of 12-1.

She raced once more, when down the field at Southwell 12 days later, and has since been retired.

The disciplinary panel said in its reasoning: “In the light of the finding that Mr Morrison was not involved in the administration, would it be right to disqualify him?

“There is no suggestion that his security precautions and practices were so lax that he bears responsibility in that sense. On the contrary, the evidence showed his security practices were adequate and found to be adequate from time to time by BHA stable inspections.”

It went on: “The entry point in such cases is £1,000. The panel did indeed consider whether in the light of its findings it should impose just a nominal penalty on Mr Morrison of, say, £1.

“But it felt that at the end of the day it was right to impose the entry level penalty referred to of £1,000... such fines can act as a practical encouragement to try to explain exactly how positive samples have been produced.”

The independent disciplinary panel concluded that the nandrolone was administered intentionally “by person or persons unknown, for unknown reasons”.

The panel also suggested that Our Little Sister may have been given the banned substance “to target Mr Morrison, but even that remains speculative”.

Jamie Stier, the British Horseracing Authority’s chief regulatory officer who announced earlier this week that he will be taking up a new job in his native Australia in 2018, defended the handling of the case.

He said: “We respect the panel’s decision, the rules of racing have been upheld.

“The rules are clear that it is the trainer’s responsibility to prevent horses taking part in our sport with prohibited substances in their system. We now await the panel’s full written reasons before we can comment further on this matter.”