The owner of the two horses at the center of positive doping tests reacted to the news with “absolute shock and absolute disbelief”.
Frances Stead owns both Jonathan “Jock” Paget’s Badminton and Burghley winner Clifton Promise and Kevin McNab’s Clifton Pinot, both of whom returned positive tests to the banned substance Reserpine from samples taken following the Burghley horse trials. Clifton Pinot finished 14th at the event.
Both horses have been provisionally suspended by the FEI from competition for two months, and the riders, as the “Persons Responsible”, have also been provisionally suspended until further notice.
Paget’s suspension puts his Rolex Grand Slam tilt at risk. The $US350,000 title can be won only by riders who win Badminton, Burghley and the Kentucky Three-Day-Event consecutively.
Stead, who is based in France, told New Zealand’s Radio Live Sport that she was “100% sure, not just 99.9% but 100% sure that Jock would never knowinging or intentionally administer any prohibited substance to Clifton Promise or any other horse. He is just not that sort of guy”.
She said her initial reaction was that “there has to be something that went wrong in the system”.
She has spoken to Paget several times in the past few days, and he was “as shell-shocked as everyone else”.
Stead said that from what she had heard from veterinarians, Reserpine was a substance “that is hardly ever used in horses as such, and if it was used in the past it was used as a sedative”.
“We have a horse here who went round the cross-country, probably the toughest cross-country course in the world, and went round very fast. The last thing you would use to try to enhance its performance is a sedative. The scenario just does not make sense.”
New Zealand eventer Andrew Nicholson, who finished second and third behind Paget at Burghley, told Radio Live Sport: “He’s very upfront, very serious about what he does, but a very genuine person. I believe there’s no way he’s knowingly gone and done it, and I’m a big benefactor if he tests positive on the B sample.”