Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Integrity Portal

Aengus King (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral - Cork 21 April 2023

The Referrals Committee, Mr Peter M Allen (Chairman), Mr John McGuire and Mr John Murphy convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Tuesday, 14 May 2024 to consider whether Mr Aengus King (Trainer) was in breach of any rules of racing as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England. 

The report received on 5 May 2023, confirmed that the urine sample taken from Miss Cunning following her win in the Captain Ruben Ocana Memorial Handicap at Cork Racecourse on 21 April 2023 was confirmed by LGC Laboratories to contain harpagoside. Harpagoside is the main active constituent of Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil’s Claw).

The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was declined by Mr King.  

Evidence was heard from Mr King, Dr Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer & Head of Anti-Doping and Dr Graham Adams, Deputy Head of Veterinary Operations. 

In his evidence, Dr Adams outlined the investigation of the adverse analytical finding which included an unannounced inspection of Mr King’s licenced premises on 8May 2023. Dr Adams confirmed that during the inspection two 1.5kg tubs of Devil’s Claw Root were present which had clear instructions of withdrawal times for pre-racing on the back label. Dr Adams stated that Mr King’s yard was well maintained, and the horses were in good condition.  

In his evidence, Mr King explained that he trained horses as a hobby and only had four or five horses in training at any one time. Mr King said that all horses are stabled in one barn and that he would use herbal remedies as a first preference and would rarely have medicines for his horses. Mr King added that he feeds the horses himself at approximately 6pm in the evening and that Miss Cunning would have been fed at this time on the evening before her race. Mr King accepted the breach and confirmed that he did have Devil’s Claw for his horses should they need it post-race and also for Capture The Drama who is retired. Mr King suggested that the adverse analytical finding was a result of him mixing up the buckets of feed for Capture The Drama and Miss Cunning and it was an error he regrets and would ensure wouldn’t be repeated.  

In her evidence, Dr Hillyer explained that Devils Claw is a medicinal plant that is recognised for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties which is evidenced in numerous scientific papers that outline it has a clear medicinal effect. Dr Hillyer stated that it is usually administered orally, and it is used as a herbal alternative to phenylbutazone. Dr Hillyer confirmed that it is not a licenced medical product however it is a prohibited substance due to the anti-inflammatory effects.  

Mr Allen delivered the following decision on behalf of the Referrals Committee: 

“Mr King admits to the administration of the Devils Claw supplement regularly and says he gives it to each of his horses that have raced for three days post-race. The manufacturer of that substance has seen fit to put a warning on the label for horses entering competition that they should observe at least a three-day withdrawal period. When they have put such a notice on the product, we think it is obvious to anyone who purchases it that there is some benefit in the product being administered to horses and that they do gain some advantage from it. Having considered all of this, it’s our finding that in relation to Rule 96(a) we find Mr King in breach of this Rule. We do not find that all reasonable precautions were taken in the administration of the drug. In finding a breach of that rule, it is our decision that the horse will be disqualified from the race in question, the stake will be forfeited and in relation to the breach we fine Mr King the sum of €1,500.  

In relation to Rule 148(i) we find Mr King in breach, and we are fining Mr King the sum of €1,000.  

In relation to Rule 148(iii)(b) we find Mr King in breach of this rule in that he failed to keep a proper Veterinary Medicines Register. We are conscious that there was no visible recording of any recent treatments given to any horse and there appeared to be no entries since 2022, consequently we fine Mr King the sum of €750. 

In relation to 298(v) while we appreciate Mr King has only one part-time employee, the rule is there for a reason, and it states the agreement must be displayed in a staff working area and consequently we fine Mr King the sum of €250.”  

The amended result of the Captain Ruben Ocana Memorial Handicap now reads:  


First:                 A Shin Undine 

Second:            You Owe Me Money 

Third:               Brown Eagle 

Fourth:             Sondheim 

Fifth:                Lisabetta 

The case was presented by Ms Bébhinn Murphy, BL. Mr King was represented by Mr Kevin Power of Maurice Power Solicitors, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick.  



Copyright © 2018, I.H.R.B, All Rights Reserved.