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Jul 08, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            Over the last month trainers Rick Dutrow Jr. and Todd Pletcher were both

 involved in suspensions, Dutrow Jr. started serving his 60 day on June 1st and

Pletcher was recently handed a 45 day suspension.

            Dutrow Jr. suspension stemmed from an incident that happened back on

 April 27th, 2003 but because of appeals didn’t have to serve the suspension until

June 1st, 2005. Pletcher’s suspension is a result of a race on August 14th, 2004 at

 Saratoga. Because of his right to appeal he also might not have to serve for a while.

 The reason that this is news at all is that these are the top two trainers in New York

 over the last four years or so. Another reason it is news is that at the Belmont

meeting, NYRA started a detention barn for all horses to prevent trainers from using

 illegal substances, most of all milkshakes. A milkshake in horse racing terms is

when a horse is giving a mixture of sugar, bicarbonate and electrolytes, which is

 pumped into a horses stomach using a tube. This mixture is said to prevent the

 onset of fatigue in the horses muscles, giving him/her a better chance of winning.

Neither Pletcher or Dutrow’s suspension was for “milkshaking”. The drug in question

 was mepivacaine, which is an anesthetic commonly used on horses who are to

receive stitches. It is listed as a class 2 drug, meaning it can affect performance.

            Another reason that it is imperative to write about this is because of the

 press it has been getting in the local New York papers. One horse racing “expert” that

 writes for one of those papers feels that the penalties involved for these offenses

 aren’t severe enough. He writes that if a trainer gets suspended that the barn is

still able to run and the assistant trainer takes over. The belief of this writer is that

 the penalty should be that no horse from a suspended trainer be allowed to run

 until the trainer serves his time. He goes on to say that the owners involved would

 be aware of the consequences and will be careful whom they employ. Although

 the writer believes it won’t happen especially in these cases because NYRA needs

 the horses that the Pletcher and Dutrow barn have to fill races. While there may

be some truth to the statement that NYRA would miss those horses to fill races to

 think that they would close is false. You also must understand that not allowing

 a trainer’s horses to run while on suspension is ludicrous. Pletcher who was the

 eclipse award winning trainer last year has run thousands of horses in his

distinguished career and this was his first positive. According to the “expert” all of

Pletchers horses should not be able to run while he is on this suspension. I guess

telling the Laura and Eugene Melnyk’s and Michael Tabor’s of the world among

others, who spend millions upon millions of dollars on the game every year to then

 be told they can’t run their horses because your trainer, the best in the country by

 the way, had a slight overage on a horse that won an allowance race. A race of

 really no significance when you really come down to it, considering that most of

Pletchers horses are stakes horses. Sure Pletcher has claiming horses, turf

 horses, sprint horses, dirt horses, distance horses and everything else that you can

 have. The reason for this is because as I stated earlier he is the best in the country

 and to take away the opportunity of his owners, who by the way are the reason

why this game moves along is ridiculous. Plus the fact that these trainers are no

 allowed on the grounds has to be a huge deterrent not that these cases were

intentional anyway.

            I agree that the detention barn and milkshaking testing are important

and there hasn’t been anyone that has violated the limit. Although a few horses

have gone over the limit, additional quarantine has cleared the trainers of any

wrongdoing. The detention barn is doing its job, it is in the long run going to be

 a good thing and for those trainers that are trying to use illegal substances it

will stop them from doing it. To set up a program that will make a trainer responsible

 for the positives and barring them from the game after X amount of times would

be a good thing. But to think that the owners should be held liable especially in

 certain cases like this is just not doable. It is hard enough to get new owners in

 the game and to make it that much harder, as expenses go up and the upkeep

 of the horses go up would not benefit racing. NYRA made a good move to help

prevent the cheaters, other tracks are following and over the next few years it will

 clean up the game. If you do get a positive with all these measures in place I

 agree that you should be suspended and these trainers are, they are away from

 their horses but everyone has to make a living. The assistant trainer, the

grooms, the help and most importantly the owners.



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