NEWMARKET, England (AP) — Shaken by the recent doping confessions of two high-profile trainers, British horse racing is under a cloud heading into the first two classics of the flat-racing season — the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The town in eastern England — known as the home of flat-racing — has been at the center of both scandals, with Godolphin trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni banned for eight years for administering anabolic steroids to 15 horses and Gerard Butler confessing Monday to giving horses a product containing anabolic steroids.
Investigations at the stables of both trainers are ongoing and there are suspicions other horses could have been doped, a nightmare scenario for British racing officials who rely on bettors believing in the integrity of the sport to keep them attending meets.
Paul Bittar, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said Friday that the recent incidents aren't the tip of the iceberg. But the specter of those scandals will hang over racing on the Rowley Mile this weekend, especially with the Godolphin-owned Dawn Approach setting out as the 5-4 favorite for the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday — a mile race for 3-year-olds.
Dawn Approach is trained by Jim Bolger in Ireland and was rated the best 2-year-old in Europe last year after finishing his maiden season unbeaten. Godolphin is seeking its third 2,000 Guineas winner, after Mark Of Esteem (1996) and Island Sands (1999).
"I have been very happy with his preparation," Bolger said. "I could not have wished for a smoother passage through the winter and into the spring. He is a very hardy horse and has a great constitution."
Toronado, who is also undefeated, should be Dawn Approach's biggest rival in a field of 13.
The 1,000 Guineas, the second of Britain's five classics, takes place on Sunday at the same course and over the same distance. The race is restricted to fillies and the favorite is Hot Snap, trained by Henry Cecil.
What A Name is likely to be her biggest threat and will be ridden by Mikel Delzangles, who rode Makfi to victory in the 2,000 Guineas in 2010.
"This has been the plan since the end of last year and thankfully nothing has gone wrong to stop us," Delzanges said.