‘A steep learning curve’ – Sydney stewards DQ Zaaki and fine Annabel Neasham over positive test

Horse Racing Zaaki
Star galloper Zaaki tested positive for a banned substance after a race in Sydney in April. Photo: Racing and Sports

By Jon Lees

Australia: Rising star Zaaki has been disqualified from a race during Sydney’s Autumn Carnival and his trainer Annabel Neasham fined after the horse tested positive for a prohibited substance.

A pre-race test sample taken before the ex-Sir Michael Stoute-trained galloper finished second in a G3 race at Randwick in April was found to contain the anti-inflammatory meloxicam.

However tests taken following the gelding’s three high profile wins in Queensland, which have established him as early favourite for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, have returned negative results, the trainer said.

Horse Racing Annabel Neasham trainer
Annabel Neasham: fined A$7,000 over Zaaki positive. Photo: Annabel Neasham Racing

“Meloxicam is a widely used veterinary-prescribed therapeutic medication that is given to horses as an anti-inflammatory, and often given post galloping,” Neasham said in a statement.

“Zaaki was routinely given the treatment after his final Tuesday gallop, as is common practice for many stables. Subsequently, the results that have been returned from his wins in Queensland were negative.”

British expat Neasham faced Racing NSW stewards after traces of meloxicam were found in the blood sample taken from Zaaki before the JRA Plate, in which he finished a head second.

Evidence was provided that Zaaki had been administered an above recommended dosage of meloxicam but Neasham had adhered to the advertised withdrawal times. Neasham, who pleaded guilty, was fined A$7,000 (£3,800).

“I am extremely disappointed to get this news, not only because it undermines the standard of integrity and professionalism the stable represents and that everyone in the team strives to achieve, but also for Zaaki’s owners who are great friends and supporters,” Neasham said.

Neasham said a urine sample taken from Zaaki after his run in the JRA Cup returned a negative result. She added: “I have the utmost respect for the Racing NSW stewards and their integrity process and accept full responsibility for this unfortunate result. It is a steep learning curve and to mitigate future risk I will be reviewing all our processes to ensure this does not happen again, which will include lowering our dosage level of meloxicam.

“I look forward to moving past this and continuing to develop the record and reputation of the stable.”

Neasham, former assistant to Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, has enjoyed a stellar first season as a trainer during which Zaaki recorded a spectacular win in the G1 Doomben Cup, and two G2 victories either side.

• Read the Racing NSW Stewards’ Report 

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