Estimate, a five-year old filly owned by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, has run into some royal trouble after the horse tested positive for morphine. The Queen’s horse along with four other horses test positive for morphine, a banned substance on race days according to the British Horse-racing Authority (BHA), in a post-race urine test. John Warren, bloodstock and racing advisor for Her Royal Majesty, announced the findings. As a painkiller, morphine could allow a horse to run all out, numb to any injuries or muscle pain that may slow it down in a race.
The five horses that tested positive for the illegal substance are all handled by different trainers. Estimate, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, and the other horses may have picked up the morphine through the horse’s feed. Warren indicated that Stoute is fully cooperating with the BHA while they investigate the matter. While the BHA continues their investigation, Warren announced that the Queen had been made aware of the situation. Her Royal Majesty’s racing advisor also stated that there will be no further discussion about the matter until the authority has concluded the investigation.
While early indications point to tainted feed, it may not matter to the BHA. In 2002, Be My Royal was disqualified after winning the Hennessy Gold Cup. After winning the race at Newbury, Be My Royal tested positive for morphine, like the Queen’s filly did. At the time of the disqualification, Be My Royal’s trainer Willie Mullins called the decision a serious injustice, and cited that the horse likely had been dosed with the morphine accidentally through tainted feed.
The world’s horse racing eyes will be focused on the BHA while the investigation takes place. Royal trouble would fall on the Crown and the BHA if the filly owned by Queen Elizabeth II is cleared and the other four horses are disqualified. If all five horses are cleared, that opens the door for the disqualification of Be My Royal 12 years ago to be re-opened and potentially overturned. The obvious answer for the BHA is to disqualify all the horses testing positive and hope that the Crown will support the decision.
Britain’s current Monarch has a great love for horse racing. Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance when the filly won the Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup in 2013. The victory was the first time in 207 years that the Gold Cup was won by a horse owned by a reigning Monarch. Within weeks of her coronation in 1953, the Queen saw her first royal triumph as her horse, Choir Boy, won the Hunt Cup. This began a string of 21 Ascot victories that received it’s crown jewel with Estimate’s win of the Gold Cup. Now, that victory may come into question if the horse is disqualified from the most recent race, tarnishing the impressive jewel on Her Majesty’s racing crown.
If Estimate’s feed troubles become a tarnished royal jewel for Queen Elizabeth II, Her Majesty’s love of horse racing will survive. Disqualified or not, tainted feed is an issue that horse racing must deal with. It is a safe wager that the Queen will continue to cheer on her stable of race horses. The Queen’s horse did not visit BALCO and ask to be injected with a performance enhancing drug so they could hit home runs. Instead the horse did what horses do, ate the food placed in their feed bag.
Commentary by Carl Auer