George Strawbridge, who celebrated his first Royal Ascot winner last month with homebred colt Gatewood, has launched a stinging attack on racing authorities in America over their attitude towards drug use in the sport.
The prominent owner/breeder, who has previously said that some US trainers “use the veterinarian to train rather than horsemanship”, has been dismayed by recent positive tests for the painkiller dermorphin – also known as ‘frog juice’ – in a number of thoroughbreds and quarter horses.
Strawbridge believes that harsher punishments are needed for drugs violations and is advocating a “three strikes and you’re out” policy.
“Some trainers like to give drugs that they rationalise by saying they’re therapeutic,” said Strawbridge. “But when you start giving dermorphin to horses there’s no way you can possibly rationalise that.
“I think the dermorphin that they’ve discovered is just the tip of the iceberg. Why are they giving a horse a drug that is around 40 times more powerful than morphine? Unfortunately some [horsemen] find it too tempting because there are no proper punishments.
“If you are found to have injected a horse, or given them a performance enhancer, you should be suspended for at least a year and for a second offence, between three and five years. The third time, that’s it. Three strikes and you’re out.”
Strawbridge resigned from the American Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) earlier this year after the organisation backtracked on a plan to ban raceday medication in all juvenile Graded races.
“They made an action that I regarded as very craven, “ he said. “It illustrated the fact that they really don’t stand for anything.
“TOBA made the decision to have drug-free two-year-old races but then came opposition from the trainers and they caved in. That’s why I resigned.”
To read the full interview see August’s Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder magazine.