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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Queen Elizabeth's Bust: Estimate and Morphine

King Richard III:
A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!

Withdraw, my lord; I'll help you to a horse.

King Richard III:
Slave! I have set my life upon a cast,
And I will stand the hazard of the die.

 (William Shakespeare, Richard The Third, Act 5, Scene 4)
Wow, guess who just got busted? 
Would you believe Britain's Queen Elizabeth II? 

Well ... sort of. You see, Estimate, a champion racehorse owned by the queen has tested positive for morphine, a banned substance on race days in the United Kingdom. The five-year-old filly is under investigation.

Oh, the embarrassment! Yet, could this "horsy" drug abuse have been just an unavoidable, accidental mistake?

"The British Horseracing Authority announced last week that tests on five horses under the care of various trainers showed the presence of morphine in their 'A' samples. Late Tuesday, Buckingham Palace said that one of the horses was the monarch's 5-year-old mare Estimate

"The Daily Telegraph reports that 'the horse will likely forfeit its second-place finish in the Gold Cup at Ascot this past June, as well as the prize money of 80,625 pounds ($137,671).'

"A statement released by Buckingham Palace late Tuesday said that the Queen had been made aware of the positive test, and said the result was likely due to the horse's consumption of contaminated feed. Morphine is allowed to be used while training horses as either a painkiller or sedative."

 (Associated Press. "Champion Racehorse Owned by Queen Elizabeth II 
Fails Drug Test. Fox News. July 23, 2014)

Much to her delight, the Queen become the first reigning British monarch with a winning horse in Royal Ascot's biggest race in 2013. But, Leading Light won the Gold Cup on June 19, 2014, denying Queen Elizabeth II's horse Estimate a second consecutive victory in Royal Ascot's most prestigious race.

A possible explanation for the positive reaction to morphine is contaminated food. One of Britian’s major feed merchants, Dodson and Horrell, issuing a statement last week that one of its suppliers had notified them “of a possible component contamination.”

The Queen’s bloodstock and racing advisor John Warren released a statement to the effect that Estimate was one of five horses that tested positive to morphine and that the Queen has been notified.

(Mark Mazzaglia. "Queen’s Horse Estimate Tested Positive to Morphine." July 23, 2014)

Estimate (middle)

If it is proven that the presence of morphine was accidental and related to food contamination, trainer Sir Michael Stoute will escape any penalty, as will the other trainers that have been caught up in the unfortunate situation. Sir Michael continues to offer his full co-operation to the investigation.

The Queen is one of the world’s highest profile thoroughbred owners and has raced horses for sixty years with more than one thousand, six hundred winners.

When Estimate won the Gold Cup at Ascot in 2013, Elizabeth II was ecstatic. Footage of her royal reaction was played on the big screen at Ascot, much to the delight of the crowd. Tom Sykes of The Daily Beast reported: "It's definitely the happiest I have ever seen the Queen! Look at that royal grin!"

(Tom Sykes. "Queen Goes Nuts (For Her) As Horse Wins Gold Cup." 
The Daily Beast. June 20, 2013)

Perhaps the grins have vanished and red faces rule the day in 2014. In a rather ironic case of nomenclature, previously Britain's most publicized case of a horse testing positive for morphine was "Be My Royal" after he had won the 2002 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. The horse was subsequently disqualified.

Whatever the findings, this matter must hit close to the queen's heart. It is reported at 88 she still enjoys her daily horseback rides and loves a day at the races. She even made sure to be back from her D-Day commemoration trip to Paris in time to be in Surrey for the Epsom Derby on June 7 of this year. According to the Daily Mail,  her majesty enjoys riding through Windsor Great Park with her Fell pony named Cartlonlima Emma.

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