Sports

Graham McKeever fined for Balnaslow having banned cobalt in system

Balnaslow’s trainer Graham McKeever was handed a £1,500 fine at the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings concerning the horse’s positive test for cobalt.

The long-running case was launched in 2018 by the British Horseracing Authority after the banned substance showed up in a sample, following the veteran’s win in the Foxhunters’ Chase at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

“When this horse ran on 12 April 2018 it had double the threshold limit of cobalt in its system,” said Louis Weston, detailing the BHA’s findings.

The hearing was told McKeever, who has 16 horses in training, didn’t know Balnaslow had tested positive until investigators arrived at his yard in May of that year.

“He was cooperative as you’ll see from the transcript of his interview and at a complete loss as to how the inorganic cobalt had entered his horse’s system,” his representative Andrew Ford said.

Balnaslow won the 2018 Randox Health Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase at Aintree

No evidence of cobalt was found at the stables and the other horses tested were clear, Mr Ford added.

Panel members, who learned CCTV from Aintree on the day in question had been overwritten, heard Balnaslow was fed horse nuts for extra protein due to his size.

Ford explained how they used to contain cobalt, but the manufacturer removed it when cobalt became a banned substance in racing from 2016.

Mr Weston said the firm told McKeever there was no cobalt in the product around the time of Balnaslow’s test.

Via Zoom, from his base in Ireland, McKeever said he could not provide evidence to back up his view that the feed may have been contaminated.

Graham McKeever pictured at Aintree on April 12, 2018

When Weston asked the trainer if giving the horse cobalt as a performance enhancer would be something he had done, he replied: “No it’s not.”

Panel chairman Brian Barker QC said the case was a “very serious matter,” but disqualification was not appropriate given the circumstances.

Balnaslow did however lose the Aintree win, worth £26,685 to connections, from his record.




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