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Thursday, 21 July 2011

Trainer Howard Johnson Faces Horse Welfare Inquiry

Howard Johnson

Trainer Howard Johnson has appeared before a British Horseracing Authority inquiry on Wednesday to face horse welfare and doping charges.

Johnson is charged with running Striking Article eight times after the horse had undergone a palmar neurectomy - the severing or removal of leg nerves running to the foot.

He is also charged with administering steroids to three of his other horses.

Johnson has held a trainer's licence since 1986 Johnson denies the charges. The hearing is set to last for two days.

A guilty verdict could lead to a lengthy ban for Johnson, who has held a trainer's licence since 1986. The BHA said that a result is unlikely to be announced this week.

Striking Article was put down after a race at Musselburgh in February 2010 after pulling up with an injury. It was discovered in the post-mortem that the neurectomy had taken place.

Johnson says he was not aware of the rules and did not know that a horse that had been 'de-nerved' was banned from racing on welfare grounds, and because it could affect the safety of the jockey.

The procedure leaves the horse without any sensation in the lower leg, and unaware of any possible pain.

The County Durham-based trainer told the Racing Post: "I am not guilty because I asked the vet whether Striking Article could run after the operation and I was told he could."

What is a neurectomy?

•Nerve blocking below the knee

•Horses are barred from racing following such an operation because it means they feel no pain, causing a potential hazard to the animal and rider

He also denies the charge of giving the steroid laurabolin to three horses, Whisky Magic, Mintaka Pass and Montoya's Son.

Johnson's most notable wins have come in connection with owner Graham Wylie, most notably with Inglis Drever, winner of three World Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival.

In April 2010, Johnson told how he and his wife Sue were robbed of £100,000 at gunpoint during a raid at their farm.