As part of their investigation, Equine Welfare Integrity Officers will visit Easterby’s Sherriff Hutton yard in North Yorkshire and will have retrieved, and be analysing, CCTV footage from the racecourse stables at Newcastle.
Easterby, 83, is one of racing’s longest-serving trainers. He is highly respected among his northern colleagues and has enjoyed numerous big-race successes both on the Flat and under National Hunt rules, including the 1,000 Guineas with Mrs McCardy in 1977.
In their tablet form, beta blockers are prescribed to humans to reduce blood pressure. They work by blocking the effects of adrenalin, slowing the heart beat and reducing the strength with which it pumps blood around the body.
They are often prescribed to people with heart problems, particularly the elderly. It is not known precisely what effect the drug would have on a horse, but veterinary sources suggest a lack of adrenalin is likely to impair the animal’s ability to race effectively.
There have been previous cases of horses testing positive for beta-blocking drugs owing to cross-contamination, which can occur because of human error, such as if a member of staff feeds the horse having just handled their own tablets. However, it appears nothing obvious has come to light during the present investigation that would suggest that this was the case in this incident.