FOUR trainers, including two French visitors, had their bags confiscated by officials from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) before the Qipco Champions Day meeting at Ascot on Saturday.

Leading UK trainers Hugo Palmer and James Fanshawe, along with top French handlers Jean-Claude Rouget and Francois Rohaut, were among those hauled before the stewards. They were asked to explain various contraventions of the sport’s drug rules. The trainers’ staff had been found to possess substances which were either not allowed in the racecourse stables or for which permission was required but had not been granted.

Later the runners trained by all four, including Champion Stakes winner Almanzor, were  routine tested” and the cases referred on to the BHA for a final verdict.

The BHA’s Robin Mounsey commented: “The checking of bags in the stables is fairly routine, and a logical way of checking that prohibited substances aren’t present on race day. There have been other cases this year which have not attracted as much attention and can be found on the BHA’s website.

“The substances involved at Ascot are very innocuous, being electrolytes and a gastric ulcer treatment, but it is right that we should follow up on these things when they are discovered.”

Palmer, who trains top three-year-old Galileo Gold, commented: “I do think there is a wider point and the question needs to be asked, why the BHA feel it’s appropriate to go through a massive spot check of every trainer’s bags on racing’s biggest day, as if they were looking to make an example of people.”

A BHA official denied any suggestion that there might have been a change in BHA policy aimed at shocking trainers on a high-profile day.