The highly publicized scandals of 2012 over illegal drug use in horse racing – particularly in Quarter horses – may have reached their zenith at Ruidoso Downs on May 25 when eight of the winners of 25 qualifying heats for the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity tested positive for the powerful pain-killing drug dermorphin, a Class 1 drug originally derived from South American tree frogs and with no legitimate use in horses.
In addition to the eight Quarter horse winners that tested positive for dermorphin, a third-place Futurity trial finisher tested positive for the drug and a second-place finisher tested positive for the Class 3 prohibited drug ractopamine, known on the backstretch as pig juice because it is approved for use in the swine industry to bulk up those animals. Two of the winning Quarter horses that had dermorphin in post-race samples also tested positive for the prohibited anabolic steroid stanozolol, commonly sold under the brand name Winstrol.
The following day, May 26, one winner and two runners-up in six Ruidoso Derby trials run tested positive for ractopamine.
The tests were confirmed by the Maddy Laboratory at the University of California-Davis. The New Mexico Racing Commission contracts with the testing lab at Iowa State University for the bulk of its work. Industrial Laboratories in Colorado and the Louisiana State University lab also have called a number of dermorphin positives for horses racing in Oklahoma and Louisiana. Ractopamine, or pig juice, was the subject of a Paulick Report article in March 2011.
Four trainers that were responsible for the 13 horses that received positive test results have been notified and each requested split samples to confirm the presence of the prohibited drugs. The trainers include two of current top 10 Quarter horse trainers in the United States by money won, Carl Draper and Carlos Sedillo, along with two-time All-American Futurity-winning trainer John H. Bassett, and J. Heath Reed, a member of a prominent Quarter horse racing family from Seminole, Okla.
The cases have not been prosecuted and no formal charges filed, pending confirmation in the referee samples. Vince Mares, director of the New Mexico Racing Commission, said the penalty range for dermorphin positives is a one- to five-year suspension, along with a fine and loss of purse money. The ractopamine suspensions range from 60 days to six months, along with fine and loss of purse, he said.
Here are the horses in question, with their owners and trainers listed:
May 25 Ruidoso Futurity trials
One Classy Eagle, owned by Ted G. Abrams and trained by J. Heath Reed (dermorphin)
D M Red Tide, owned by Bradley Hale, Wade Helton and Bill Moler and trained by J. Heath Reed (dermorphin and stanozolol)
Teller Im Scootan, owned by Wootan Racing and trained by J. Heath Reed (dermorphin)
Don't Tell Lila, owned by Mason King and Kim Kessinger and trained by John H. Bassett (dermorphin)
Jess a Zoomin, owned by Ted G. Abrams and trained by J. Heath Reed (dermorphin)
Joker on Jack, owned by Wade Helton and trained by J. Heath Reed (dermorphin and stanozolol)
Greater Still, owned by Paul Blanchard and trained by Carlos Sedillo (dermorphin)
Ill Stop the World, owned by Ron Hanna and trained by Carlos Sedillo (dermorphin)
Separate Battle, owned by Sheryl Cox and Lola Willis and trained by Carl Draper (ractopamine)
Head Trauma, owned by Lyle Guillory and trained by John H. Bassett (dermorphin)
Ruidoso Derby trials
Dashin Spartacus, owned by J & L Stables and trained by Carl Draper (ractopamine)
RC Black Mamba, owned by Lola Willis and Fredda Draper and trained by Carl Draper (ractopamine)
Texas Rockstar, owned by J & L Stables and Fredda Draper and trained by Carl Draper (ractopamine)
Only Jess a Zoomin and Separate Battle raced in the $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity final June 9, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively. Texas Rockstar finished eighth in the Ruidoso Derby.
Two of the horses trained by Carl Draper are co-owned by Lola Willis, wife of New Mexico Racing Commissioner Ray Willis. A Quarter horse owner and breeder since 1981, Ray Willis served four years on the New Mexico Racing Commission's Medication Committee.
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