The first Classics of the season, at Newmarket this weekend, cannot come soon enough to stem the noxious tides of the Godolphin steroids scandal.
Ripples of suspicion have extended so far across the Turf over the past 10 days that a backwash of resentment has now been drawn all the way from Australia.
Peter Moody, who last month retired Black Caviar after 25 unbeaten starts, has indignantly denied insinuations that her immaculate career might have been tarnished by steroids. Promoters of Royal Ascot will sense the stakes being raised for the next posse of Australian raiders, which is set to include Black Caviar's half-brother, All Too Hard.
The fact is that Mahmood Al Zarooni, the disgraced trainer last week banned for eight years after 11 of his horses had tested positive for anabolic steroids, would not have been in breach of the rules either in his Dubai homeland or in Australia. That anomaly has since renewed speculation about the kind of artificial stimulus that might have sustained the development of Australian sprinters at Ascot in recent years.
Five years ago, Mark Johnston, himself a vet, incensed a number of Australian trainers by suggesting that Takeover Target, a winner at the 2006 meeting, should never have been invited back after subsequently failing a drugs test in Hong Kong. Moody himself was quoted saying: "If someone like Mark Johnston wants to train like they did 200 years ago, then good luck to him. You've got to look at every advantage within the rules." But Lee Freeman, who won the 2007 King's Stand Stakes with Miss Andretti, responded to recent mutterings by stressing that his mare never received steroids. And yesterday Moody told media that Black Caviar's own career intake amounted to "nil."
"Steroids increase bulk," Moody said. "Black Caviar was a huge mare from the day she was born. It would have been absolutely counter-productive."
He said that Black Caviar had been tested "clean" straight after her arrival in Britain and before her race. And he turned his guns on those "lily-white" trainers who take a when-in-Rome approach to anti-bleeding medication at the Breeders' Cup. "They bang on about steroids, but they are the first to use Lasix when they campaign horses in the US," he said. "Maybe the Poms might start looking at themselves rather than us." (© Independent News Service)