June 27, 2008


More bad press on the racing front, especially for the conditioners. And we're not talking about small stables at obscure tracks like Emerald Downs, mind you (no offense to the Seattle area track). What I can't figure out is why all these global pharma companies are losing money if most human athletes, and now their equine counterparts, are doping? Perhaps the decline is attributable to cyclists giving up "the juice" now that the Tour de France is enforcing their drug policies. Now there's a novel concept!

Larry Jones, the popular "cowboy trainer" of filly heroine Eight Belles and Hard Spun from last year's Derby trail, was shocked recently by officials at his home base of Delaware Park. Racing stewards informed Jones that Stones River had tested positive for illegal levels of clenbuterol -- a bronchodilator that helps burn fat and promote muscle growth -- after a race at Delaware Park this month. This was the first charge against Jones in 25 years as a trainer. He alleges that he was "targeted" by someone wanting to defame him after his vehement testimony against drugs in the Eight Belles aftermath. This is very plausible considering his clean record and how easy it would be in a low security environment to gain access to a claiming horse's stall.

What's a drug story without Rick Dutrow? Well that may be a tad harsh, but hasn't he asked for that with his skiddish behavior on the Triple Crown trail? Slick Rick is facing a 15-day suspension after one of his horses that raced on Kentucky Oaks day was found in violation of state medication rules. The ruling from the stewards at Churchill Downs came after an excess of clenbuterol was found in the system of Salute the Count following his second-place finish in the May 2 Aegon Turf Sprint. Clenbuterol is used to treat horses with allergies and breathing problems. It is widely used in training but under Kentucky racing guidelines should not be given to horses closer than three days before a race. So this infraction is mild compared to his previous issues in New York and Maryland, the foundation of his regular racing circuit.

And then the final shoe dropped (hopefully) yesterday, when trainer Steve Asmussen was notified that a horse in his care tested positive for the Class 2 substance lidocaine following a May 10th maiden special weight race at Lone Star Park. The Texas native was previously slapped with a six-month suspension from July 10, 2006, to Jan. 10, 2007 after a horse in his care tested positive for the anesthetic mepivicaine in Louisiana (and a similar infraction in New Mexico).

Naturally, his lawyer said Asmussen would "fight the charge." What these trainers need to be fighting is the urge to use the myriad of substances that can give a horse the edge needed to hit the wire first! However, as we have recently seen with another sports failure in MLB that I also hold in high regard, it is clear to me that the league is most guilty of "failure to supervise" or "lack of institutional control", or whatever you want to call it.

Horse racing has admitted their shortcomings and have pledged to swiftly close these proverbial loopholes, while Bud Selig pointed fingers at everyone except himself. So let me get this straight, the Commissioner has the authority to UNILATERALLY ban someone from baseball (Charlie Hustle should be in Cooperstown), but he's "allegedly" powerless to list banned illegal substances from baseball? Gimme a freakin' break...

Go Cubbies!!!

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