Clifton Eventers owner Frances Stead is promising to reimbuse riders Jonathan Paget and Kevin McNab for any prize money they may lose as a result of positive dope tests on their mounts used at the Burghley International Horse Trial.
The A samples from Clifton Promise, who Paget rode to victory, and Clifton Pinot, on whom McNab finished 14th, have tested positive for the long-acting sedative, reserpine.
Both riders have requested tests on the B sample at a different laboratory, as is their right under FEI rules.
New Zealand-born Paget and Australian-born McNab are provisionally suspended pending the outcome of their cases, which will go before an FEI tribunal.
Stead has confirmed that both riders have now engaged lawyers experienced in FEI cases.
The lawyers have advised, given that the preparation involved in such cases is long and complex, that Clifton Eventers should cease making weekly public updates, as was its intention.
“This is contrary to our own normal policy of open and frank communication on all topics,” Stead said, “but we do fully accept we have no prior experience at all of such FEI cases.”
Stead said Clifton Eventers would follow that advice and no longer post weekly updates.
“We apologise for any disappointment, but I am sure everyone can understand that this is a very trying time when we all want to follow the advice of those who have been in this situation before.”
Stead reiterated the efforts undertaken to ensure the welfare of Clifton horses.
“They all have top riders, top vets, top grooms, top facilities, top care in every way. No stone is left unturned in the welfare of my Clifton horses.
“When we first found out there had been a positive test result on both Clifton Promise and Clifton Pinot from Burghley, I was absolutely stunned.
“It never even occurred to me to ask either Jock Paget or Kevin McNab whether they had given either horse any banned substance,” she said.
“There is no point in asking a question when you are absolutely sure you know the answer! Both these guys love their horses just as much as I do, and as I have repeatedly said, you could not find two more honest, hard-working, talented and ethical individuals.
“On the same day as finding out the news, I confirmed to both riders that, whatever the outcome on the matter, I would pay them their share of their respective prize money regardless.
“Even if all prize money were taken away from me by Burghley, I would fund their shares personally. I felt it would be absolutely unfair and unethical to do anything else. Both had done a brilliant job in the preparation of their horses and as riders at Burghley.
“Kevin was competing there for the first time and to finish 14th was very creditable. Jock went there with one objective: to win. He and Clifton Promise led from start to finish. They were pure class in all three phases and thoroughly deserved their victory.
“In my mind, nothing will ever take away from either performance and both riders deserve fully their prizes. There is very little monetary reward in eventing anyway, so it would be completely wrong to take what they had won away from them.
“Everyone close to me knows that all my horses are very special to me. However, they also know that Clifton Promise is in a league of his own in my heart. I bought this horse as a three year old and he is now 15.
“I always knew he was super talented, and never wavered when good riders told me he was just too complicated to ever be any good.
“However, I also knew he would need a super-talented rider to bring out his true abilities. People regularly say to me that Jock is so lucky to have Promise. My reply is always the same: Promise is just as lucky to have Jock. They have made each other the stars they now are.
“If Clifton Promise worked out that someone had deliberately administered something bad to him, I would understand completely if he tried to get his revenge on them, as they might have cost him his hard-earned Burghley title and the chance of being the first horse to ever win the Grand Slam single-handedly.
“Unfortunately, he is too much of a gentleman to dream of doing that: he has never bitten or kicked anyone in the 12 years I have owned him.
“I am still totally confident that we will all come through this tough time and all be exonerated from any blame in this saga. Jock and Kevin are innocent and we will all work together to prove just that. Thanks again to all of you who continue to believe in and support them. Down the track you will be found to be right.”