ERA Media Release - Ms Saleha Al Ghurair

The ERA Stewards opened an inquiry on Monday 31st May 2021, into the notification by the Dubai Equine Forensic Unit (EFU) regarding the presence of Cobalt being detected in MATWOG (AE) above the mass concentration of 100 micrograms per litre in urine, before it raced in Race 1 “Longines La Grande Classique Maiden” over 1200 metres at Longines Sharjah Racecourse on Saturday 22nd February 2020.

Evidence was taken from Ms. Saleha Al Ghurair (Trainer of MATWOG (AE)), Mr. Musab Al Rais (Assistant Trainer), Dr. Kieran Finn (ERA Regulatory Veterinarian) and Dr. Michael Subhahar (Chief Analyst – Dubai Equine Forensic Unit). The following matters were established during the inquiry;
1. On Sunday 1st March 2020, ERA Stewards were advised of the irregularity to Cobalt in respect to the pre-race urine sample taken from MATWOG (AE) at Longines Sharjah Racecourse on Saturday 22nd February, 2020.
2. On Wednesday 4th March 2020, the ERA Stewards informed Ms. S Al Ghurair of the sample irregularity with a stable visit at her registered training location “Emirates Stable”. Ms. S Al Ghurair was unable to offer an explanation for the elevated level of Cobalt returned in MATWOB (AE), other than she had recently changed part of the feed given to MATWOG (AE) to a “Racing Mix by Spillers”. Stewards obtained a blood sample from MATWOG (AE) at the stables to be analysed for Cobalt.
3. On Wednesday 4th March 2020, Ms. S Al Ghurair advised that she wished to exercise her right to have the reserve portion of the sample analysed by another accredited racing laboratory in accordance with ERA Rule 95D(ii).
4. On Thursday 12th March 2020, the ERA Stewards were advised that the blood sample taken from MATWOG (AE), on Wednesday 4th March 2020, to be analysed for cobalt, returned a level of 1.0 micrograms per litre in plasma, with the international threshold being 25 micrograms per litre in plasma.
5. On Tuesday 18th March 2020, the ERA Stewards received confirmation from LCH Laboratory in France that the presence of Cobalt above the threshold was detected in the reserve urine sample of MATWOG (AE)
6. Dr. K Finn advised that Cobalt is a trace mineral naturally found in the earth’s crust and therefore found in many feeds, hence an international threshold has been set on the substance when analysed in race-day samples. It also makes up part of Vitamin B12. Cobalt can induce hypoxia like responses which can cause gene modulation at the hypoxia inducible factor pathway to induce erythropoietin transcription, the production of new red blood cells with the hope that extra red blood cells will carry more oxygen to working muscles and allow the horse to increase performance. When a concentration of Cobalt is found above the international threshold level in a race-day sample it is considered to be a positive sample. Further, the new feed given to MATWOG (AE) and the pastes given the days prior to races, would not have elevated the Cobalt level above the threshold.

Trainer Ms. S Al Ghurair pleaded guilty to a charge under the provisions of ERA Rule 95AAA 2, in that she presented MATWOG (AE) to race in Race 1 “Longines La Grande Classique Maiden” over 1200 metres at Sharjah Racecourse on Saturday 22nd March 2021, which was subsequently found, upon analysis of a pre-race urine sample, to have had Cobalt administered to it, as evidenced by a concentration of Cobalt in excess of 100 micrograms per litre in urine.

In determining an appropriate penalty, the Stewards considered a number of factors including:
• The circumstances of the offence;
• The seriousness of the offence, involving the presentation of Cobalt above the threshold level;
• General and specific deterrence;
• The integrity and image of racing in the UAE;
• Previous penalties imposed for offences under ERA Rule 95AAA 2 in relation to Cobalt;
• Ms. S Al Ghurair’s guilty plea and record in relation to the prohibited substance rules (see below).

Taking into account these circumstances, Ms. S Al Ghurair was disqualified for a period of 12 months, to commence midnight Monday 31st May, 2021 and to expire midnight Tuesday 31st May, 2022.

Pursuant to ERA 86(ii), MATWOG (AE) was disqualified from 10th position in Race 1 “Longines La Grande Classique Maiden” over 1200 metres at Longines Sharjah Racecourse on Saturday 22nd February 2020, and the placings adjusted accordingly.

Ms. S Al Ghurair was advised of her rights of appeal.

Ms. S Al Ghurair’s record in relation to prohibited substances:
No prior breaches.

Relevant Rules:
ERA 86(ii) – Where any declared runner has been the subject of an examination under the Rules 8(vi) and or (vii) and has been found to have received a Prohibited Substances, the Horse shall be disqualified from the Race and from other Races as the ERA determines.

ERA Rule 95AA – The ERA gives notice that the following substances are also deemed to be Prohibited Substances when presented above these thresholds:
* Cobalt at a mass concentration of 100 micrograms per litre in urine or 25 micrograms per litre in plasma

ERA Rule 95AAA 2 – Any Trainer or other Person in charge of a Horse, which is presented to Race or perform a Test, or has Raced or performed a Test which is found (upon analysis) to have had administered to it a Prohibited Substance, shall be liable to a Penalty.

ERA Rules 95D(ii) – Upon the detection by an Accredited Racing Laboratory of a Prohibited Substance in the Sample from a Horse, such laboratory shall notify its finding to the Stewards, who shall then notify the Trainer of the Horse of such finding and give him the option to have the reserve portion of the Sample Tested at another ERA-approved Accredited Racing Laboratory. The Trainer will have 3 days to notify the Stewards of such requirement. A refusal by the Trainer to Test the reserve portion of the Sample shall not prevent the Stewards from having the reserve portion of the Sample Tested.

Stewards Panel:
• Mr. Sam Shinsky (Chairman), Mr. Taylor Wilson and Mr. Ajay Anne.