Coolmore vet loses 'winner' due to drug in family dog

POSTED ON  |  20-06-2022

Trainer John Halley, a well-known bloodstock figure as vet to both Coolmore Stud and Ballydoyle, has lost a ‘winner’ in a bizarre long-running drugs case involving the family dog. The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) revealed on Friday that the Halley-trained Iberia has been disqualified from first in a hurdle race at Gowran in March last year due to a positive test for a prohibited substance. The horse, who’d previously raced for O’Brien, including when unplaced in the 2020 Irish Derby, tested positive for Gabapentin.

It is a human medication promoted for use in horses as a painkiller for chronic neuropathic pain including laminitis. It hadn’t been reported in this jurisdiction in prohibited substance terms before. Earlier this week an IHRB referrals panel confirmed Iberia’s disqualification but waived a €1,000 fine on Halley due to the “unusual circumstances” of the case. He did, however, have to pay €800 in costs to the IHRB.

It emerged on Friday that when contacted as part of the investigation by the IHRB’s head of anti-doping, Dr Lynn Hillyer, Halley said he did not use Gabapentin as a veterinary surgeon. He did, however, supply a letter from another vet who had treated the Halley family dog after it presented with a sudden onset of severe pain and prescribed Gabapentin for a period ending the day after Iberia’s race.

Halley told the IHRB panel that the dog was allowed free rein of his stables in Co Tipperary, accompanied staff mucking out, and suggested cross-contamination from the animal’s urine was responsible for the positive test. As his practice dealt only with horses, he said his wife took the dog to another vet. He said the case had been “of much embarrassment for him, both personally and professionally”.

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