Willie Mullins to take security precautions for fear one of his horses may be drugged
Willie Mullins will be taking the same security precautions as always as he sends his strongest ever team over to the Cheltenham Festival next week.
The Closutton maestro expects to take around 40 horses to the home of National Hunt racing but admits the threat of one of his horses being drugged is never far from his thoughts.
Mullins recalled riding a horse trained by his father, Dawn Run's trainer Paddy Mullins, which had been drugged by a gang in the 1980s.
"In any major sport, not only horse racing, there is a risk of knowledge if someone can dope or nobble a major player or team, then they can sell that information or use it themselves and it is just something we are aware of all the time," Mullins told RTE Radio.
"We're probably more aware of it in racing than other sports but no more so than a major soccer team going abroad who will take care of their own food and accommodation, they keep people away from them and we are the same with horses, you've got to be on your guard all the time.
"We'll have the security we always have, without going into any details, but we always have it - it's not just this year.
"Going back to the time of Dawn Run, when you have a really major player going across you always have concerns. I don't think a lot of Irish people have the same concerns or make much of a fuss, but it is always something that we think about when we are going.
"There was a gang going around in the 1980s doing it to horses. I remember riding a horse one day that was doped - it went on at the time, we just tried to guard against it.
"There was extraordinary stuff that went on at the time, I don't think they were ever caught but it was known about.
"The horse was doped, dead as a door nail. We didn't realise because we didn't expect it but after three or four of them ran poorly, we started asking questions and we found out. It was an Irish gang. That was well known at the time, I'm fairly sure."
The British Horseracing Authority is responsible for security at the racecourse stables and describes the matter as of "paramount importance".
"BHA works closely with Cheltenham Racecourse regarding security in the racecourse stables and it is a matter of paramount importance as part of our raceday integrity operation," said BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey.
"The site is monitored by BHA Equine Welfare Integrity Officers 24 hours a day from a period well in advance of and during the Festival. The site is comprehensively monitored by a CCTV system as well as regular patrols of the stable yard.
"Should anyone have any concerns about the wellbeing or performance of a horse then the flexibility in our testing procedures allows for those horses to be sampled, either pre or post-race."