Nebraska: Six weeks for frog juice positive
Frog juice has spread to another state. This time it's Nebraska, where owner-trainer Kim Veerhusen has been wrist-slapped with a $1,500 fine and a brief suspension that ends Sept. 19, 2012, after a horse appropriately named Cheatin Cowboy tested positive for dermorphin – a Class 1 drug also known as frog juice – after finishing second in the first race at Horsemen's Park in Omaha, Neb., on July 15.
California's Truesdail Laboratories called the positive and a hearing was conducted by stewards on Aug. 3.
Other trainers in Nebraska must now be terrified that they, too, can be hit with such a devastating penalty if they use one of the most serious, illegal drugs racing laboratories have detected in recent years. Imagine that: a six week suspension for a Class 1 violation, and a fine that amounts to less than one-third of what Cheatin Cowboy earned in five previous starts where a lab did not detect dermorphin in his system.
Cheatin Cowboy had finished off the board in five consecutive starts for owner-trainer Philip Oviedo at Turf Paradise in Arizona from January to March 2012. Apparently purchased privately after his final Arizona start on March 10 by Veerhusen, Cheatin Cowboy then rattled off two consecutive second-place finishes and two wins at Fonner Park and Lincoln Downs in Nebraska. After an eighth-place finish at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, Cheatin Cowboy returned to Nebraska where he finished second in the July 15 race where frog juice was detected.
Dermorphin, which is said to be about 40 times as powerful as morphine, has previously been detected in post-race samples in Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Only Louisiana has announced official rulings, suspending a number of trainers for one year, the maximum permitted under current racing law there.
Veerhusen, whose 2012 record stands at 28 wins, 31 seconds, and 16 third-place finishes from 156 starts, is not allowed to enter horses between now and the Sept. 9 conclusion of the current meeting at Columbus. In addition, he has been suspended a whopping 10 extra days, until Sept. 19. The case has been referred to the Nebraska commission for any further action it deems necessary.
This is Veerhusen's 11th medication violation in the state of Nebraska since 2005, according to www.thoroughbredrulings.com, which tracks state racing commission rulings from around the United States.
Did the punishment fit the alleged rule violation?
Followup: According to Tom Sage, director of the Nebraska State Racing Commission, the maximum penalty stewards may give is “current meeting, plus 10 days,” along with a $1,500 fine. The commission, by statute, follows Association of Racing Commissioners International model rules and may suspend a licensee from one to five years for a Class 1 violation and fine the licensee up to $5,000. Gage said the commission has not yet set a date to consider the Veerhusen ruling. “We hope to do something by the end of September,” he said.
Law enforcement is not involved in this investigation at this point, Gage said. He would not comment further.