Al Zarooni (right) with Blue Bunting and Frankie Dettori after their Darley Yorkshire Oaks triumph in 2011. Image courtesy of racingfotos.com.
Mahmood Al Zarooni, one of Sheikh Mohammed's main trainers who has saddled six Series race winners over the last two years including last year's Ladbrokes St Leger winner, Encke, has admitted using anabolic steroids after the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) found traces of illegal substances in routine samples taken from 11 of his horses this spring.
The horses include the unbeaten filly, Certify, who was a leading fancy for the QIPCO 1000 Guineas a week on Saturday. She will not now be allowed to run in the race.
"This is a dark day for Godolphin," said their racing manager, Simon Crisford, last night.
"We are all shocked by what has happened.
"His Highness Sheikh Mohammed was absolutely appalled when he was told and this is completely unacceptable to him."
Al Zarooni, who is 37 years old, said: "I deeply regret what has happened. I have made a catastrophic error.
"Because the horses involved were not racing at the time, I did not realise that what I was doing was in breach of the rules of racing.
"I can only apologise for the damage this will cause to Godolphin and to racing generally."
Crisford added: "Sheikh Mohammed has instructed me to begin an urgent review of all our procedures and controls.
"That is already under way and we will take advice from the BHA in completing it."
A date has yet to be set for Al Zarooni's hearing with the BHA, but a ban of at least a year is highly likely.
A decision has also yet to be made on how long the 11 horses that tested positive will be banned from racing for.
It is a bad day for racing, but on the plus side it shows that the BHA testing programme works and that trainers cannot expect to get away with the use of performance-enhancing substances.