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Guilty Nicky Henderson faces losing licence for up to five years 23/06/2009
Greg Wood

Nicky Henderson, one of jump ­racing's most senior trainers, faces the ­possibility that he will lose his licence after the ­disciplinary panel of the British ­Horseracing Authority decided yesterday that he had administered a banned and potentially performance-enhancing drug to a runner owned by The Queen.

Henderson's mare Moonlit Path tested positive for tranexamic acid, which is used to prevent internal bleeding, after ­finishing unplaced in a novice hurdle at Huntingdon on 19 February. The ­substance was administered via a syringe on the ­morning of the race.

A seven-hour hearing in London ­yesterday, at which Henderson ­admitted a number of more minor breaches of the rules of racing in connection with the case, also found him in breach of Rule 200, in that he "allowed, or caused to be ­administered, or connived at the ­administration of, ­tranexamic acid …either with the ­intention of affecting her racing performance or in the knowledge that her racing performance could be affected by such".

The possible penalties for a breach of Rule 200 range from a fine up to a ­suspension of Henderson's licence for five years. The panel will reconvene next Monday to consider Henderson's ­penalty, and will also consider any mitigating ­circumstances before it is confirmed.

Henderson looked tired and shocked as he left the hearing, in the City of London offices of the BHA's solicitors. He refused to comment on the decision.

Henderson's only public comment on the case is a statement issued on his behalf last month by the National ­Trainers' ­Federation. In the statement, he said that "the substance concerned was ­administered by my vet entirely in the interests of the horse's welfare, which is always paramount. There was no ­intention to enhance performance".

The simple fact that Henderson allowed a banned substance to be administered to one of his horses on a race-day is hugely embarrassing in itself. However, that it was also one of the very few jumping horses owned by the Queen will compound the distress, and Henderson must fear that he will lose his royal patronage, regardless of any penalty that may be handed down by the BHA's panel.

It had been expected that ­Henderson's penalty would be imposed yesterday, but the panel decided that the breach was sufficiently serious to require further consideration.

To date, the largest fine imposed on any British trainer is £20,000, which was handed down to Michael Wigham in March 2008 after he was found in breach of the non-trier rules for the second time in less than a year. Wigham's licence was also suspended for 35 days.

The next-highest fine dates back 21 years, to 1998, when David Elsworth was fined £17,500 after Cavvies Clown tested positive for a prohibited substance.

Henderson, 58, has enjoyed great ­success throughout his 31-year training career. Last season, though, was one of his most successful for several years, and included a Champion Hurdle win with Punjabi. In all, Henderson's horses won more than £2 m in prize money.

He now faces an anxious seven days as he awaits the panel's penalty. The staff at his Seven Barrows yard in Lambourn will face uncertainty too, although Henderson would be able to transfer his licence to an assistant if his suspension is relatively brief. The summer months are also a quiet time for his yard, which would not expect to bring out its best hurdlers and chasers until October at the earliest.