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O'Brien keeps counsel on Godolphin doping scandal

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Camelot (left) ridden by Joseph O'Brien

Camelot (left) ridden by Joseph O'Brien

Camelot (left) ridden by Joseph O'Brien

Camelot will spearhead Ballydoyle's Curragh delegation this weekend, but the powers-that-be at Coolmore continue to keep their own counsel on the Godolphin steroid saga despite the horse that denied him Triple Crown glory testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Ever since 11 of Mahmood Al Zarooni's horses first returned positive results for anabolic steroids, a legitimate question arose as to whether or not Encke, which sprang a surprise when denying Camelot in the St Leger last September, might also have been doped.

Those concerns gained further validity when Encke was among seven more horses to have brought the final number of positive tests from Al Zarooni's Newmarket base to 22.

Al Zarooni used Stanozolol, a steroid which can clear out of a horse's system in 28 days. As such, many wonder about the full extent of its use by Al Zarooni, whose evidence at the original enquiry that saw him banned for eight years has been discredited by the latest findings.

However, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has stated that Encke tested clear after his 25/1 triumph in Doncaster, adding that his sample could not be re-tested as it had been destroyed as a matter of routine. A re-test might well have shown up nothing anyway, but it remains plausible that Encke – and many others – might also have been administered steroids at a similar stage in his pre-season preparations last year.

While Stanazolol's effects can last up to six months, Coolmore's silence on the issue has been conspicuous, not least when you consider that relations between its figureheads and Godolphin founder Sheikh Mohammed have been strained for years.

That stance might be hard to maintain at headquarters this weekend, when Aidan O'Brien's team will be out in force. Camelot is long odds-on to gain its first Group One since last year's Irish Derby in Sunday's Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Just eight others featured in yesterday's five-day entry stage for the 10-furlong contest, four of which are the market leader's stable-mates in Rosegreen, including last year's Oaks heroine Was.

Roger Charlton's improving Al Kazeem, successful in a Sandown Group Three last time, is the only prospective cross-channel contender.

Havana Gold and Van Der Neer will represent Richard Hannon in Saturday's Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas, after the trainer ruled out his Olympic Glory. Van Der Neer was beaten over seven lengths when third to Dawn Approach in the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas, while Havana Gold was a close fifth in the French equivalent.

Cristoforo Colombo, one of eight Ballydoyle colts engaged, was fifth in the Newmarket Classic, and is a general 5/2 favourite to deliver O'Brien a ninth victory in the €300,000 showpiece.

ACQUISITION

Van Der Neer is 4/1, with Sheikh Mohammed's latest acquisition, Fort Knox, 7/1 to give Johnny Murtagh a first winner with his first runner as a trainer. Jim Bolger's Loch Garman and Trading Leather (both 10/1) are also among the 19 Guineas entries.

Bolger had suggested that Trading Leather might not run if the going was soft, but the ground is described as good to firm, with the straight course just good.

In Sunday's Etihad Airways-sponsored fillies' equivalent, Charlie Hills' Just The Judge is Paddy Power's 3/1 favourite to go one better than when second to Hannon's Sky Lantern at Newmarket.

Ballydoyle's Moth and Hannon's Maureen, which both flashed home to be third and sixth respectively that day, are next best at 5/1.

Irish Independent