Grove horse tests positive for class 1 drug in West Virginia

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Chris Grove Chris Grove

Maryland-based trainer Christopher Grove is awaiting confirmation from the drug-testing laboratory at Louisiana State University that a horse in his care running at Charles Town races in West Virginia recently tested positive for the Class 1 stimulant drug nikethemide (former trade name Coramine).

Jon Amores, executive director of the West Virginia Racing Commission, confirmed the positive test for nikethemide but said a stewards hearing would not be conducted until the split sample confirmed the presence of the drug.

Grove, a 33-year-old native of Frederick, Md., is one of the leading trainers on the Midlantic circuit, with 654 career wins from 4,119 starts and earnings of $15.9 million. His father, retired jockey Phil Grove, is a steward at the Maryland Jockey Club racetracks.

Nikethemide was believed to be a widely abused drug in horseracing in the 1960s and ‘70s because it quickly metabolized and was difficult to detect in post-race testing.

Track star Torri Edwards was given a two-year suspension when she tested positive for the drug in 2004. Edwards said the drug was contained in a glucose supplement bought in Martinique and given to her by a physician. The drug was also believed to have been prescribed by Adolf Hitler’s personal physician when the German leader was heavily sedated from barbiturates.

Alan Foreman, an attorney who defends many drug cases and has served as longtime chairman and CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association based in Maryland, said he “almost fell out of his chair” when Grove called to tell him about the positive test.

“I’ve known the family a long time and knew Chris since he was a child,” Foreman said. “Anyone who knows Chris knows he wouldn’t be involved in something like this. I said I would help him in any way I could.”

While Foreman insisted Grove was not involved in the drugging of the horse and was not present at Charles Town the night of the race, he understands the severity of the charge. “This is the kind of thing that could be career-ending, considering the climate out there right now to crack down on Class 1 drug violations,” Foreman said.  “The most important thing is to try and find out how the drug got into this horse and deal with the consequences later. There’s no way Chris Grove gave the drug to this horse.”

Foreman said his understanding of the test result was that the drug must have been given very close to the race, “because the parent and the metabolite were both detected.”

This is not the first serious medication violation by Grove. On Dec. 28, 2009, T.M.’s Treasure, a horse he ran at Philadelphia Park, tested positive for fluphenazine, a human drug used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic symptoms. Fluphenazine is a Class 2 drug in the Association of Racing Commissioners drug classifications guidelines.

RCA model rules call for a suspension of one to five years for a Class 1 violation.

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  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    Alan Foreman IS A LAWYER!!!…need I say more???…HELL NO!!!…

  • eric singer

    Mr. Paulick,

    Is your headline misleading? It declares that there was more than one horse that tested positive, yet the body of the story identifies only one horse.
    To all the people getting ready to jump on the outrage bandwagon, why not wait until the final determination is rendered? Mr. Grove has trained my horses for two years, and I am a regular visitor to his barn at Bowie. I have never witnessed, or even suspected any hint of malfeasance on Mr. Grove’s part. I have only experienced him as a hard working and honest trainer.

    Eric Singer

  • RayPaulick

    The headline accompanying the Christopher Grove story contained a typo that has  been fixed. The story correctly indicated there is one horse involved. We regret the error. 

  • Mlmartin

    did you follow his vet around too? these trainers aren’t about to let  any owner in on what is really going on. just pay the bills thank you and please don’t ask any questions. 

  • DavidB

    Would somebody please tell me why fluphenazine would be used for horses? I looked it up, and didn’t see any other uses for it besides psychological issues.

  • Pberube

    Fluphenazine is used for its calming effect on high strung horses especially 2 year olds experiencing the stresses and changes associated with a race track training environment. It is often referred to as a 30 day tranquilizer.

  • herewego

    Fluphenazine is an AAEP and RMTC recognized theraputic medication used in horses as a long acting tranquilizer. I have never used it on a horse so I can’t answer many questions beyond that.

  • DavidB

    Thank you (and to herewego as well).

  • Tonilee

    There will be little to no outrage.  Our industry is in a sad state of denial. 

  • No Penalties in Horse Racing

    i’m willing to let this play out as Mr. Singer has suggested.  However, for owners to assume their trainer is clean when a positive is called just because they don’t look like Freddy Krueger when they are at the barn is naive.  

  • Five2_three

    This is par for the course. I’m sure he is using it because he was TAUGHT to use it.  Dopers dope because it works.

  • Sevencentsstable

    In addition to Pberube’s answer I will say that fluphenazine, as a 30-day tranq, needs to be administered 10-14 days out to clear. It would be very easy to have a horse run 12-13 post administration and “ring the bell” in the test barn. Especially if the horse has a slower metabolism.

  • EPM

    On January 30, 2009, the Stewards received notice from the State Chemist that urine sample  #T17636, dated January 23, 2009, contained the drug pyrimethamine and/or derivatives  thereof- a violation under COMAR 09.10.03.04 Drug Prohibition-Horses. The  Stewards, having determined that sample #T17636 had been rendered by the horse “Our  Sue”, trained by Christopher W. Grove, following the running of the ninth race at Laurel Park  on January 23, 2009, notified Mr. Grove that: (1) the presence of the drug in “Our Sue’s”  system at the time the horse ran constituted a violation under COMAR 09.10.03.04 Drug  Prohibition – Horses; (2) he had the right to have the split sample tested by an  independent laboratory prior to the Stewards conducting a hearing in this matter; and (3) he  had the right to be represented by counsel at the hearing. Trainer Grove did not  dispute the charges and waived all rights in this matter.  Based upon the evidence before them, the Stewards have found the following:  (1) “Our Sue” did carry the drugs pyrimethamine and/or derivatives thereof in its system  when participating in the ninth race at Laurel Park on January 23, 2009;  (2) Trainer Grove was the absolute insurer of, and responsible for, the condition of “Our  Sue” at the time the horse ran; and (3) The penalty recommended by the Maryland Racing Commission for violations involving drugs similar to the one found in “Our Sue” is a $500.00 fine for a first  offense. Accordingly, trainer Christopher W. Grove is  hereby ordered to pay a fine in the amount of five hundred dollars ($500.00).

  • Steve Zorn

    I disagree. As Alan said, in the current mood, Chris Grove will have the book thrown at him if the split sample turns up positive. Unless Alan can turn up extenuating circumstances, like the poppy-seed bagel that got Bobby Frankel off the hook years ago, Grove will get a career-threatening suspension.

    Most horsemen are OK with tough enforcement. We in NY have, in fact, proposed tougher rules on Bute, clenbuterol and corticosteroids than what’s currently in  effect. Just waiting for the state to adopt our proposals.

    I talk with a lot of trainers on the NYRA backstretch(es), and I’d estimate that at least 95% support tough, even-handed enforcement of the drug rules. The only point of controversy is over Lasix, which is a red herring with respect to cheating.

  • Absolute Insurer

    Mr. Singer –

    You are correct in that we must wait to see if the split sample confirms the original finding.  However, if the split sample is positive, then Chris Grove must face the appropriate penalty for a Class 1 drug positive.  The “absolute insurer” rule is applicable in all racing jurisdictions. The trainer is ultimately responsible for what is found in his animals.  How the drug got there is a matter for Chris and his employees and/or vets.  Doug O’Neill, Richard Dutrow, and numerous other trainers have professed to not knowing how prohibited substances got into their horses but have had to face the penalties. A Class 1 is very severe and fairly rare. There is NO place in racing for drugs that are in the Class 1 category.  Those drugs should not even be around , yet alone IN the horses.

    Mr. Paulick – Perhaps you can assist. After reading this I headed to thoroughbredrulings.com to see Grove’s infraction history. There seems to be an interesting anomaly. In January of 2010 a horse trained by Grove was disqualified from the Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel and placed last. Additionally, Grove was fined $500.00.  Unfortunately, the ruling doesn’t tell us why the horse was disqualified from 1st and placed last. This usually occurs after a positive test BUT there is no indication of why it happened. The horse was Greenspring. Can you find out from your sources at MRC or RMTC what happened ? Thanks

  • Judge Judy

    has the industry ever thought about taking the purse money away on ALL positives not just class 1,2 maybe 3. Any consideration for the poor owners that finish behind the cheater? $500 fine is a joke when the purse is not taken away.

  • Charlie Davis

    Good question.  

    I see the following violations for Mr. Grove which leads me to believe that he’s not as clean as his lawyer would have us believe.  Just very good at passing drug tests.  

    12/18/2010 Congar Light – Isoflupredone, DQ and $1,000 fine
    1/2/2010 Greenspring – No medication listed, DQ and $500 fine.
    12/28/2009 T. M.’s Treasure – Fluphenazine, DQ and $1,500 fine.
    1/23/2009 Our Sue – Pyrimethamine, $500 fine.

  • JLSC

    I realize it is true that the trainer is considered responsible for anything that happens to the horse, on the whole, and anything(meds, food, etc.) given to the horse. 

    As a health care person I find so much of this repugnant, and some of the blame may be mislaid. 

    People have to be taught, e.g., to administer medication to animals AND people, for that matter. 

    Thus, one has to wonder about the vets or vet techs that administer these sorts of meds to the horses; knowing that, at best it’s illegal and at worst, it’s nefarious. 

    Not to mention who you TEACH to administer medication.  Joe Blow could walk in off the street and say to a nurse in the hospital, “I’d like you to teach me how to administer meds”.  Well, Joe Blow(also Joe Blow trainer or groom or anyone else) has neither the training nor the reason nor the business for learning such things.  Thus, if someone walks into my hospital and says, “teach me how to do that”, my correct answer is “ABSOLUTELY NOT” unless the person is able, qualified, and has a reason for learning such(as in the case of people, e.g. having to administer insulin to diabetic family members who can’t do it themselves).  People should not be taught to do this for the wrong reasons and the ones that ARE teaching them to do it are probably violating their own code of professional ethics; but, sadly, those don’t matter to a lot of people. 

    Shame on any vet or vet tech who would exploit their education, training, code of conduct, rank, station, etc. in these matters. 

    As you, whoever you are, stand there and give this crap to these horses, you can think he/she’s just a dumb animal and what does it matter–BUT, IMHO it is more accurate to believe that that horse TRUSTS YOU and you are woefully and heinously ABUSING that trust and the animal that is allegedly supposed to have less IQ than YOU.  Have a wonderful time and sleep well at night, too–and meanwhile, people like me will offer up as many prayers as possible for those horses and your heart and mind to change, not to mention your greedy, agenda-driven, self-serving actions. 

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    Like I & OTHERS hear have said a hundred times before…take em off the backside in HANDCUFFS in front of their PEERS…JAILTIME/LIFETIME BAN & a lot of this BS will stop QUICKLY…how much positive EXPOSURE you think this will bring to “THE GAME” when folks see their CHEATING @SSES being LOCKED UP & thrown out “THE GAME” FOR LIFE???…GET BUSY PLEASE!!!…ty…

  • FEDavidson

    Having known Chris Grove, I can say that he’s one of the good guys on the MD circuit.  However, pursuant to WV Rule 178-1-51.1a,”The trainer is the absolute insurer of and responsible for the condition of the horses he or she enters in an official workout or a race, regardless of the acts of third parties. If testing or analysis of urine, blood or other bodily substances or tissues prove positive showing the presence of any prohibited drug, medication or substance, the trainer of the horse may be fined, suspended, have his or her occupational permit revoked, be prohibited access to all grounds under the jurisdiction of the Racing Commission, or may be otherwise disciplined.”The “absolute insurer” rule is not a rebuttable presumption, but a guarantee.  The only hope Chris has is to mitigate the potential discipline if the split test proves positive.  With that said, given the fraud and corrupt practices which are pervasive at Charles Town, and which were even the subject of an FBI investigation, in my opinion, it would not be a surprise if the administration of the drug was undertaken by, or on behalf of, one of the WV insiders….particularly if the horser was a ship-in favorite.However, since Charles Town is known as a den in iniquity, any ship-in trainer not accompanying his horse to the track and letting the horse out of his sight for even a moment, is asking for trouble.  In this instance, Chris can’t be treated any differently from the others who have, and very well should have, paid the “trainer insurer” price.It’s also interesting to note that the WV rule goes on to say,”…the owner of the horse, the foreman in charge of the horse, the groom and any other person shown to have had the care, or attendance of the horse may be fined, suspended, have his or her occupational permit revoked, be prohibited access to all grounds under the jurisdiction of the Racing Commission, or may be otherwise disciplined.”This portion of the rule is something that should also be enforced in order to extend the accountability to those in actual control and, at the same time, serve as a deterrent to those who ignore a trainer’s transgressions and modus operandi.     

  • Barney

    “Greenspring” had tested positive for the non-steroidal,  anti-inflammatory “Diclofenac”. This drug relieves pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Rayghost

    Exactly.  Why is that Jack Van Berg and John Shirreffs and Grahm Motion never get a posiiive from glucose supplement?

  • Lem

    You go girl!

  • voiceofreason

     Forgotten in 2 days.

  • Tom Morgan

    How can a trainer have 4 positives in a 3 year period and receive only small fines and no suspensions?  I’ve seen similar fines for violations of rules having nothing to do with drugs.  The message I get from the Racing Commissions from those penalties is this: Go ahead and use the drugs – if you get caught, we will slap you on the wrist, and you can keep training and using the drugs. 

    This is a joke.  If racing is to be cleaned up we need MUCH stiffer penalties.  In most other countries, a trainer would never have 5 positives in 3 years because he would have been banned for life well before the 5th incident – probably after the second.  There are tons of guys out there running around doing the same thing and using the same M. O. as Grove.  Why? Because the Racing Commisions condone their behavior.  So why wouldn’t the trainers take advantage of a lax system – they know they won’t face any substantial ramifications. 

    I’m just not sure how long a sport that allows chemists to have trainers licenses can last due to poor public perception and destruction of the breed.

  • Equine Avenger

    “There’s no way <insert name=”" trainer=”"> gave the drug to this horse.”

    Same old song and dance</insert>

  • Equine Avenger

    Mr Singer,

    You are not suppose to know what is going on, don’t you know that? When owners(and the media) are around, the barn is a whole different place than when owners aren’t around.

  • Yovankajojo

    it’s o.k if the you only have the stewards to deal with,but when mangement steps in and gives rulings something needs to be done about that almost like double jepordy

  • Sevencentsstable

    …which is a medication used topically, not orally, or injectable. If anyone cares.

  • Sevencentsstable

    So, if you get 5 speeding tickets in 3 years, even though you pay the fines, you should be put in jail the same as the guy who robbed 5 banks in 3 years? Until this case, the guy had positives for Class 4s and 5s – speeding tickets. This one is damned sure an armed robbery, but the others were not.

    I don’t know the guy, never ran that far east, but if there are extenuating circumstances I feel bad for him. If he is a known juicer who finally got busted, I am glad he got nailed. He is going to get nailed to the wall, regardless, as a poster boy for the new Get Tough Movement.

    If trainers didn’t already have enough expenses we are ALL going to need to put cameras in our barns pronto. From the 2 horse guys, to the 12 horse outfits (like myself), to the 100 horse factory barns. Anyone who wants us out of the business (OR wants our business) is going to be able to do it very easily. When we ship our horses we are going to need to send along 2 guys to keep the horse under surveilance 24/7 as well.

  • Sevencentsstable

    I really feel sorry for you – you need a new trainer.

     In our barn we have an owner who is out every day (a neighboring trainer thought he worked for me!). Most of my other owners stop by pretty regularly. None are ever asked to “make appointments” and we have never rescheduled our planned work around their presence. I have never hidden a procedure, a medication, or a diagnosis from any of my owners and never will. Maybe Mr Grove has a similar approach? Maybe he does not, but not all trainers treat thir owners like mushrooms.

  • Wingtips

    Or appealed for years until forgotten.

  • Wingtips

    Driving a car is a privilege, not a right.  If you get too many speeding tickets, your privileges should be curtailed.

    Stall space should also be a privelege.  In racing, too many “speeding ticket” sized drug postives show that a trainer can’t manage their business at their present size and should have their stalls reduced so they can more effectively manage.  Won’t happen here- Grove is an industry legacy.

  • Wingtips

    Trainer teaching point- If you ship a horse to race out of town, stay home.  Then it will always be someone else’s fault.

    Maybe the Scott Lake “it was the nefarious and revenge minded groom who sabotaged my horse and absconded to Mexico” defense can play on this one too.

  • Lou Baranello

    You are exactly right!  Racing commissions do condone that behavior and the stakeholders of the industry condone their respective racing commissions.  Wake up people!  March in the streets of your capitol.  Your Governor appointed these hacks. 

  • http://judgebork.wordpress.com/ Lou Baranello

    Tips, The trainer may chose to stay home, but the ABSOLUTE INSURER RULE applies wherever the horse runs.

  • No Penalties in Horse Racing

     Not true.  There are pill forms.

  • No Penalties in Horse Racing

    There is not millions of dollars wagered on whether someone gets a ticket going over 55 mph while there is millions wagered on horse racing.  Get your analogies straight then get you head out of your rear and wake up.

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    If the split comes back POSITIVE I believe they will hand him his HEAD!!! cause its a great time for the Amercian PUBLIC to see “THE GAME” is FED UP with CHEATERS/REPETERS…now if they LOCKED his @SS UP (cause hes a REPETER) that EXPOSURE would go WORLD WIDE…VIRAL BABY!!!… this guy brought this BS on his self & “THE GAME”…someone needs to inform Foreman that Grove has been CONVICTED…SOONER are LATER SOMEBODY HAS TO STEP UP TO “THE PLATE”…MIGHT AS WELL BE Charles Town!!!…ty…

  • Hossracergp

    Probably the industry realizes that racehorses are given medications between races to improve their quality of life. So they don’t haul them off in handcuffs, rule them off for life, or take all purse money away for having trace amounts of medications in their systems which are so low as to never affect performance. Even glorious trainers sporting halos, have been known to treat minor injury and illness between races. Get a grip.

  • Bobw205

    AS FAN FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS I HAVE COME TO RESPECT SOME TRAINER MORE THAN OTHERS. THEIR SILENCE ON CHEATING IS DEAFINING.IT HURTS TO THINK THE WHOLE BARREL IS AND WAS ALL ROTTEN.

  • Phil Schoenthal

    I feel sorry for Chris and believe him about this.   Everyone needs to step back and look at the big picture.  The guy is training a barn full of horses for fairly prominent owners, he is on the MTHA board, has a wife and three kids, and has spent all of his life trying to make a living in this game we all love.  Do you honestly think he would risk it all and potentially throw it all away in order to try and win some garbage race at Charlestown with some ratty horse?   Chris is an intelligent man, that’s why he’s gotten to where he is in this game, so I am sure that he did not make that decision. 

    Does anybody out there think he would make the phone call to his assistant and say, “You know what, let’s take a shot tonight and try and win a crappy race at CT by giving this horse a Class 1 drug that we know they have test for.  Maybe we can cash a few hundred dollars in the window.” 

    All that being said, the trainer is the absolute insurer, and if the split comes back positive I’m sure Chris will face the consequences with grace and class, but that doesn’t mean he’s not getting the raw end of a crappy deal. 

  • Tony

    I find it deeply troubling that the defense attorney Alan Foreman is allowed to participate in the Racing Medication Consortium and counsel the Maryland Racing Commission in writing their medication regulations.  It is unethical and makes the case for federal oversight and enforcement

  • Joe S.

    I agree. Alan Foreman should not be involved in the Racing Medication Consortium and certainly not counsel re any medication regulations. If he had any ethics he would not recuse himself. It is simply outrageous. 

  • Joe S.

    “Some ratty horse”, nice !! I would not want you or your ilk near any of my horses.

  • Absolute Insurer

    I can no longer consider the RMTC an oganization to be taken seriously. How can it allow its Vice Chairmen to argue to mitigate drug positives , argue for penalty reductions in contravention of the model rules, and argue against testing laboratory procedures ?????

    WEST VIRGINIA – THE SPOTLIGHT IS ON AND IS SHINING BRIGHT – WE ARE WATCHING

  • Jake Jake

    Unfortunately your facts are wrong. Alan Foreman is not the defense attorney in this case. He is Mr. Grove’s friend and offered to help his friend as anyone would.

  • Genuinecat

    Bottom-line the Trainer is responsible for who, , what, where, when and how. 

  • doublete

    Has anyone heard any updates on this case?

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