Johnson facing lengthy ban
Howard Johnson faces a lengthy ban from training after admitting he had run a horse eight times following an operation to have it de-nerved from the knee downwards and, separately, for administering anabolic steroids to three horses in his care.
Striking Article, the horse in question, won three times after undergoing a neurectomy to his off-fore but was put down at Musselburgh last February after being pulled up with an injury. That the procedure had been carried out came to light in a post-mortem.
Johnson was oblivious to the existence of the rule that the procedure is not allowed. Apart from the horse's own welfare, there is also the jockey to consider. He generally relies on a horse to let him know something is wrong by going lame, something it cannot do if it has been nerve-blocked.
There are a number of levels of charge of which the BHA's disciplinary committee could find him guilty. If it's merely considered below the acceptable standard of husbandry, he could be fined up to £3,000. If it's considered neglect, the range is between six months and a year, and if they find 'wilful neglect', the range is between five and 10 years.
The administration of anabolic steroids is also a no-go area with horses either in or out of training, due to its long-term performance-enhancing properties, except in exceptional life-threatening circumstances. Johnson could be banned for up to three years for that. If he has acted in a manner prejudicial to the integrity of the sport, he could also be banned for up to three years.
Though no Johnson runner tested positive, a winner showed up minute quantities of a steroid on a drug screening, which prompted the BHA to conduct an unannounced visit.
None of the 100 horses tested showed positive, but veterinary records at the yard showed that Whisky Magic, Mintika Pass and Montoya's Son had, at some stage, been treated with laurabolin. Johnson is due in front of the disciplinary committee on February 10 and the vet in question is likely to be referred to the disciplinary panel of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Elsewhere, champion Australian racehorse So You Think has arrived at Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle stables ahead of the new Flat season. The five-year-old lost for the first time in six races when just failing to see out the trip in the Melbourne Cup, in which he finished third.
The son of High Chaparral landed back-to-back victories in the Cox Plate, Australia's premier weight-for-age race, last October before going on to secure his fifth Group One win in the Mackinnon Stakes. O'Brien intends to aim him at all of Europe's premier middle-distance races in 2011. (© Daily Telegraph, London)