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O'Brien Arc runners among those in doubt due to contaminated feed

Aidan O'Brien: has changed the feed of affected horses
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The participation of a number of British and Irish runners – including Aidan O'Brien's four Arc contenders – at Longchamp this weekend has been thrown into doubt after it was revealed that various batches of Gain horse feeds have been found to be contaminated with a prohibited substance.

O'Brien is among many leading trainers who use Gain products.

On Friday evening, Gain Equine Nutrition issued a statement advising trainers to refrain from feeding horses its equine products, including its widely used racehorse cubes and mix, after it emerged some of its products have been contaminated with Zilpaterol, which is unlicensed in Europe but is used in America and elsewhere to promote weight gain, mainly in cattle.

The advisory came about after France Galop announced that five horses had tested positive for Zilpaterol in recent weeks.

"Until further investigations are completed, Gain customers are advised to refrain from feeding our equine products to their animals," Gain's statement read.

"The contaminant, Zilpaterol, is a synthetic beta-agonist approved for use as a performance-enhancer in some beef production systems outside of the EU.

"It is important to stress that this synthetic substance has never formed part of any formulation in any of our animal nutrition ranges."

The three products specifically mentioned in France Galop's statement were Gain racehorse cubes, racehorse mix and its opti-care balancer nut.

O'Brien has confirmed that, having first heard of the issue on Thursday night, all of his horses were switched from Gain products to Connolly's Red Mills feed on Friday morning. He said he has taken blood and urine samples from all of his runners in France this weekend, and also confirmed none of his recent runners in France had tested positive for any prohibited substance.

Although the results from Friday's blood and urine samples that were sent to France to be independently analysed are not expected to be known until Saturday night, O'Brien has confirmed to the Racing Post that Mythical and Passion, his two declared runners at Longchamp on Saturday, will run as things stand.

He also sent urine samples to the Irish Equine Centre and hoped those results may be known on Friday night. 

O'Brien confirmed Ballydoyle's own tests on the relevant feed products returned positive for Zilpaterol on Friday evening after samples were taken early in the morning, but that the levels were "minuscule" and may not translate into a positive test from a horse.

"They say after a day and a half or two days, the substance should be gone out of the horse's system," O'Brien said on Friday.

"So, if, when we get the results, there is a trace of the substance in it, we'll have to see how much is there and then make a decision, after changing the feed for two days, whether we should run on Sunday or not. The experts are telling us that it should be clear by then, so we'll just have to see."

Among O'Brien's delegation bound for Longchamp on Sunday are his four Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runners, Mogul, Japan, Serpentine and Sovereign. They are among the leading contenders vying to thwart Enable's bid for a historic third Arc. It is unclear at this stage what other yards may be impacted. 

Jessica Harrington, who has runners on Saturday and Sunday in Longchamp, said on Friday she feeds Red Mills products so her team is not impacted, and it is also understood that John Gosden's yard is not affected.

Joseph O'Brien, who has Patrick Sarsfield and Pista declared for Longchamp on Saturday as well as Pretty Gorgeous and Speak In Colours on Sunday, confirmed he also feeds Gain to around 40 per cent of horses and he is mirroring his father's approach to the matter. 

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has confirmed it tests for Zilpaterol but at this stage there are "no indications in terms of screenings or findings" in relation to the substance.

"We are monitoring it closely in partnership with France Galop and the BHA in particular but also working with racing regulatory authorities in countries which may have been affected," added Dr Lynn Hillyer, the IHRB's chief veterinary officer. 

Read more:

Who will win the 2020 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe based on previous trends?

Enable draws stall five as O'Brien withdraws Love from Arc

Sink or swim? 33-1 shot stands out as we assess the runners in soft-ground Arc

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If, when we get the results, there is a trace of the substance in it, we'll have to see how much is there and then make a decision
E.W. Terms