California Justice: 30 Days for Class 1 Violation?
Seventeen months after the horse Red Dwarf won a maiden claiming race at Golden Gate Fields in California with the prohibited drug zilpaterol in his system, his trainer, Genaro O. Vallejo, has been suspended 30 days and fined $3,000.
At the time of the violation, Zilpaterol was classified by the California Horse Racing Board as a Class 1 drug. The Association of Racing Commissioners International classification guidelines currently lists it as a Class 2 substance with Category A penalties, the category with the heaviest fines and suspensions.
RCI’s recommended first-offense Category A penalties call for a minimum one-year suspension and minimum $10,000 fine, absent mitigating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances could increase the suspension to three years, according to RCI.
Technically, Vallejo was suspended 90 days, with 60 days stayed, provided the trainer has no more Class 1, 2 or 3 violations during the term of a one-year probation that began Sept. 15. The suspension takes effect Oct. 17 and runs through Nov. 15. Red Dwarf was disqualified from the victory and his purse earnings redistributed. The horse was owned at the time of the violation by Battle Born Racing Stable. He was running for a $12,500 maiden claiming tag when he tested positive. Two races later, he was claimed for $4,000.
Zilpaterol is the muscle and body-building supplement for cattle found in contaminated horse feed earlier this year by Purina Mills that resulted in 48 positive tests in California – none of which was prosecuted. Additionally, Hong Kong racing authorizes identified contamination in a Merck product as the cause of 17 positive tests for zilpaterol last summer.
Unlike the 2013 outbreaks in California and Hong Kong, the Red Dwarf positive on April 12, 2012, appears to be an isolated incident.
The ruling did not elaborate on why a Class 1 violation received only a small fraction of the recommended penalty of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, of which the CHRB is a member.
There was reference to a “stipulated agreement” between the CHRB and Vallejo, but CHRB communications officer Mike Marten said a copy of that agreement is not available.
Doesn’t the CHRB owe other owners and trainers, along with the racing public, a better explanation?
UPDATE: According to the CHRB’s equine medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur, zilpaterol was a Class 1 in California at the time of the violation due to the fact it was unclassified under Rule 1842. Under California regulations, unclassified drugs are Class 1. The CHRB began to update its drug classifications in August 2012 based on RCI classifications then in place (which had zilpaterol as Class 3). RCI in December 2012 moved zilpaterol to Class 2, but the California process to make it Class 3 was already under way. Thus, zilapterol currently is a Class 3 drug in California though it has remained a Category A penalty throughout this process. Confused? We sure are.