Two Newcastle workers suspended in connection with suspected doping case

POSTED ON  |  25-10-2018

Mike Easterby
Two contracted workers at Newcastle racecourse have been suspended after an investigation was launched by the BHA into suspicions a horse was doped to underperform at the track last month. The Mick Easterby-trained Ladies First tested positive for a beta-blocking drug after the 6-4 favourite was beaten 22 lengths and finished eighth of nine behind Alexandrakollontai in a mile fillies’ handicap.

Ladies First, owned and bred by Reg Bond, had won at York 12 days earlier before finishing down the field on the all-weather at Newcastle.

Arena Racing Company, which owns and operates Newcastle, declined to comment on specifics of the case on Wednesday, with a spokesman saying: "We're fully co-operating with the BHA's investigation into the case." Ladies First, who was ridden by apprentice Scott McCullagh, came under pressure three furlongs from the finish and weakened out of contention soon after, with the jockey informing stewards the filly had never travelled during the race and had hung right. A subsequent routine test returned a positive result.

What is a beta-blocker?

While it is not known precisely the effect beta-blockers have on horses, it is believed they slow the heart rate and therefore can manipulate performance, while also reducing the impact of stress hormones. Beta-blockers are commonly used by humans to reduce blood pressure, slowing the heart beat by arresting the effects of adrenalin.

David Easterby, assistant to father Mick, said on Wednesday: “The BHA turned up and told us we’d failed a test for a beta-blocker. I personally had a bet on her, a double with Arrowtown, and was expecting Ladies First to run well, and my dad did a treble including her. “She’d run well on the all-weather before, and on the handicap she was a racing certainty being well-in from her York win, so it was a shock to see her finish 20-odd lengths back. We looked for every conceivable excuse for her below-par run and couldn’t find one.

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