07/23/2014 1:39PM

Queen Elizabeth's horse among five to test positive for morphine


Five horses in England, including a horse owned by Queen Elizabeth II, have tested positive for morphine, the banned drug that is frequently detected in post-race samples as a result of environmental contamination.

The British Horseracing Authority announced last week that five horses had tested positive for the substance without identifying the horses. However, on Tuesday night, a representative of the Queen issued a statement saying that Estimate, a horse owned by England’s monarch, had tested positive for an undisclosed concentration of the drug following a second-place finish in the Ascot Gold Cup last month during the track’s royal meeting, attended by the queen.

While the initial announcement about the five horses from the BHA made only the racing papers, the disclosure that Queen Elizabeth II’s horse had tested positive launched the news on to the front pages of nearly every major publication in the United Kingdom.

Two other trainers, Eve Johnson Houghton and Charlie Wells, have also come forward as having horses that tested positive for the drug.

Estimate is trained by Michael Stoute. Under BHA rules, all the horses will likely be disqualified, but punishments for the trainers will depend on whether the BHA determines that the substance was administered deliberately or not.

In the U.K., as in the U.S. and every other major racing jurisdiction in the world, morphine is a banned substance, meaning it cannot appear at any level of concentration in a post-race test. However, because some organic products that can sometimes be mixed into feed contain morphine, such as poppy seeds, many regulatory authorities will conduct investigations into possible sources of contamination if the concentration of the drug in the post-race test is miniscule.

According to the BHA, the initial investigation is focusing on the feed product Alfalfa Oil Plus, manufactured by Dodson & Horrell. The company has said that any contamination of the feed must have come from a local supplier, citing tests of their products at the manufacturing site. On Wednesday, Johnson Houghton told the Racing Post she does not use Alfalfa Oil Plus, but does use other products produced by Dodson & Horrell.