‘Lessons have been learned’ – Mahmood Al Zarooni keen to return to racing as eight-year ban ends

Horse Racing Mahmood Al Zarooni
Mahmood Al Zarooni: ex-Godolphin trainer’s eight-year ban is about to end. Photo via Twitter

By Jon Lees

Dubai: Mahmood Al Zarooni says he will “have to start from zero” as he approaches the last day of the eight-year steroids ban that cost him his job as a Godolphin trainer.

Al Zarooni, 45, will from Sunday be clear to work in horse racing again, eligible to apply for a licence having completed the sentence which cast him out of the sport in disgrace in April 2013. 

Al Zarooni trained three Classic winners during his time in charge of one of Sheikh Mohammed’s two Newmarket stables until he was disqualified for eight years by a BHA disciplinary panel after 11 horses in his care tested positive for the anabolic steroids ethylestranol and stanozolol.

The ban remains effective until Saturday, April 24, 2021 – but after that he will no longer be subject to the conditions of his disqualification, meaning he can find employment in the sport.

“I am happy that it will end but I have to start from zero,” said Al Zarooni, speaking from Dubai. “Lessons have been learned through these eight years. I hope I will not make this mistake again.

“I haven’t decided yet what I am going to do,” he added. “Tomorrow is the last day but I don’t know if someone is going to offer me a job in one of the bigger stables in Dubai. If not I may have to do something else, like having a private yard. 

“I can’t do anything else as racing is all I know and it would be difficult for me to go overseas again.”

Al Zarooni says he has not worked over the last eight years and has got by on the money he earned as a Godolphin trainer, when major wins included the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks with Blue Bunting in 2011, the Dubai Sheema Classic and Prince of Wales’s Stakes with Rewilding the same year, and the Dubai World Cup in 2012 with Monterosso.

Al Zarooni recorded his last Classic victory with Encke, who in landing the 2012 St Leger denied Camelot an historic Triple Crown after the Coolmore colt had won the 2,000 Guineas and Derby.

Al Zarooni admitted, in an interview with the Daily Mirror, to making a “catastrophic error” but claimed his use of steroids was “therapeutic” rather than part of a “plan for cheating”. In Dubai the administration of steroids was permitted out of competition until May 2013.

“I don’t think anyone got punished like me,” Al Zarooni told the Mirror. “I thought they would ban me for a maximum of two or three years. I was shocked when I got eight years.”

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