The risks of accepting “catch rides” in Middle Eastern endurance was highlighted again this week by revelations that two of the horses lent to Argentina’s Daiana Chopita during her winter season in Abu Dhabi turned out to be doped.
Borrowed rides JC Cahuel and HLP Gadafi tested positive to banned diuretic Trometamol after both placing third under Chopita in their respective FEI rides on December 9th and December 23rd. The two race rides, both at Abu Dhabi’s premier venue Al Wathba, were only Chopita’s second and third ever CEI starts in the UAE. She had ridden neither horse in FEI competition before.
The 23-year-old is now provisionally suspended, pending a FEI Tribunal hearing. Two other top placed horses in the same rides ridden by Emirati jockeys also tested positive – JLB Noche to Trometamol and Crazy Antar to controlled and specified substances Theophylline, Caffeine and Paraxanthine.
Chopita made an impact earlier in December when winning the National Day Cup on December 2nd – run under national rules – with Tehama Souveign, leading from the front with an average speed of 28.02 kmph over 120km.
JLB Noche (grey) and HLP Gadafi (chesnut) can be seen in this Instagram clip from their fateful December 23rd outing. Ali Al Jahouri, trainer of those two horses, is also suspended. 8 Minute, a third horse under Al Jahouri’s management, is already waiting for a Tribunal hearing following a steroids offence at the young riders world championship in Verona, Italy last September.
Partnering a strange horse is the norm in the UAE, though the FEI Tribunal has been warning against it since at least 2005, and usually shows limited sympathy to riders who argue they were not in charge of the horse’s daily care.
After another such case in 2008, Tribunal wrote at greater length about its concerns, concluding: “To have a fair and equitable system of dealing with positive doping or medication cases, riders of borrowed horses… should not stand to benefit the lack of clarity and certainty sometimes evidenced in these situations in which a horse is given to the custody of a competitor in close proximity to the event.
“If the rider is not absolutely and positively convinced that a horse does not have prohibited substances in its system, the rider should not agree to ride the horse at that event.”
Meanwhile, a prominent figure in German endurance and Arabian breeding has delivered a scathing assessment of desert endurance in a Facebook post explaining why his daughter won’t be taking her own horse to Dubai’s most prestigious races, the Presidents Cup next month. Nayla al Sammaraie was invited on the strength of finishing 14th at Verona.
Her father, Ahmed Al Samarraie brands the UAE endurance scene a “funfair.” He says the all-expenses paid trips offered to overseas riders are a “hard-bitten calculus” with inducements to visitors to sell their horses which then become part of the “faster-faster machine.”
“We will not legitimate [sic] this kind of ruthless using of the horses, the speed mania beyond the natural physiological limits of performance horses, because at the end of the day a lot of horses are paying the price – we still see in the races just the tip of the iceberg.”
Iraq-born Al Samarraie settled in Germany and forged a successful career as an architect. The family runs the major ride at Marbach, which has allied itself with the Boudhieb Initiative, and Al Sammarraie founded the ZSAA registry for sport Arabians.