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 nikethamide (former trade name Coramine).
Jon Amores, executive director of the West Virginia Racing Commission, confirmed the positive test for nikethamide 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.
Nikethamide 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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