Trainer Don Roberson Suspended After Barn Search

by | 07.25.2013 | 7:41am

Veteran trainer Don Roberson has been suspended by the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission pending a stewards hearing after a Delaware Park barn search found him to be in possession of “injectable medications, syringes, and needles.”

The search was conducted by racing commission inspectors July 13 and a ruling was posted four days later. Karen's Good Boy, entered to race for Roberson on July 13, was a steward's scratch that day. The colt raced yesterday in the name of trainer Jim Tracy at Penn National.

Roberson, who has run horses this year at Oaklawn Park, Prairie Meadows, Delaware Park, Colonial Downs, and Penn National, has won eight races from 94 starters in 2013, including the July 6 Jamestown Stakes at Colonial Downs with the 2-year-old Long on Value. He has a career record of 1,190 wins from 8,575 starts.

Roberson has at least seven medication violations from 2005-11, including three overages for Butazolidin and three methocarbomol positives in 2011. A 2012 Bute overage at the Alameda County Fair was dismissed with only a warning from California Horse Racing Board stewards because of no “similar violations during the last 365 days.”

During the suspension, Roberson is denied privileges of all grounds under jurisdiction of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission.

  • Why is it not enough to use the legal amount? How many racehorses are actually sound?

    • harry

      Lets set one thing straight some times not saying always some horses carry it in there system a lot longer than others so whats good for one is not always good for the other. Thats why they have levels to abide by but some trainers or should say most want to push it as close as they can!

  • Lynn

    This article states that Trainer Don Roberson had previous positives for Butazolidin and Methocarbamol. Why is Butazolidin (Bute), an anti-inflammatory much like Aspirin and Methocarbamol a muscle relaxant; maid out to be such a crime in horse racing? It is only a crime at a race tracks and horses in racing environments. All other horses can benefit from these medications. Both of these medications are therapeutic, as such they help heal and maintain health. The regulators either have no understanding of these medications or have no interest in helping keep horses healthy.

    • El Cab

      Lynn, you have negated your response – the meds WERE found at the racetrack where it is illegal.

      The regulators have a VERY GOOD understanding of these therapeutic meds. Check it out, there are threshold levels for testing. In other words, yes, the horse can have some in his system, but not enough to (supposedly) influence the outcome of a race. Yes, they help; however, they also are pain relievers. Masking pain so an unsound horse can run and possibly breakdown. Therapeutic meds do have a place in horse racing – just not at the track.

      Also, if you think bute = aspirin, you’re living in the dark ages. I reported on studies a few years ago (check out the NHBPA website for articles on bute) where long term use of bute causes bone degeneration and bute toxicity.

    • betterthannothing

      There is a huge difference between using therapeutic medications 1) in a responsible, ethical way, to heal injuries and diseases while horses are being rested or in light training; 2) to cover-up problems and fully exploit horses without giving them time to heal, thus aggravating injuries and especially in racing, endangering horses and riders.

    • walter magee

      Lynn, I have to argue against your logic that drugs like phenylbutazolodin and methoccarbamol (Robaxin) promote the health and well being of a horse. Although these drugs and others are unquestionably valuable in treating acute problems by reducing inflamation or acting as limited muscle relaxers etc., they do not by any means cure or stop the underlying cause of the inflammation or muscle discoomfort. Instead these drugs merely abate the symptoms. They become detrimental by providing a false picture of ongoing damage being done by poor management practices or other conditions actually at the root of the symptoms. These drugs provide an inaccurate assessment of a horses condition by artificially reducing symptoms that would demand rest or a modification of training practice that would arrest the growing problem. The result of a routinely medicated horse is an ultimately shorter career because it has been pushed too far by these false health assessments. Eventually the damage continues to the point where even drugs dont help. At this point, you have a far more serious situation than one that would have been checked well in advance with more careful use of these drugs. Reducing reliance on drugs to perpetuate a horses campaign is proving to be a wasteful and fooolhardy venture. It is more difficult to operate without the use of these drugs, but the end result is a healthier more serviceable horse that msay in fact wind up having a longer more productive career without the artificial props.

      • walter magee

        A mis statement: “The use of these drugs is foolhardy” not reducing their use. Sorry, doing this off an iphone can be trecherous.

        • Don Reed

          Not as treacherous as using an insane Microsoft keyboard where it is possible to accidently “Caps Lock” using only one hand (the method of how to prevent this from happening was invented in the 1920s. Reason #666 why Bill Gates scheduled to be shaking hands with the Devil one of these days).

      • Matt Clarke

        A very solid, lucid opinion with which I completely agree.

    • sd7329865

      Right On Lynn…..individuals who pride themselves in looking out for the best interest of an animal such as a race horse, would not take away these therapeutic medications anymore than those same individuals would throw away their own personal therapeutic medications. If these individuals do not want these animals to have the best care, then let’s begin with the regulators emptying their medicine cabinets first, along with the non-owners of a horse who like to voice their opinions so loudly about which they are not educated in that industry and/or horse ownership.

  • Claudette

    When used properly, a “therapeutic” medication could indeed be helpful to a horse. But some of these racehorses get shuffled faster than a deck of cards – from trainer to trainer, owner to owner, and in the process, no one knows how much of these seemingly “therapeutic” medicines have been administered throughout the horse’s racing career (Let alone the undetectable illegal ones). That’s when it becomes detrimental to the overall well-being of the animal – They slowly begin to “break down” physically and emotionally. Add to that a trainer with at least seven medication violations and you indeed have probable cause to inquire.

    • Roisin

      Very well said !

      And as long as there are no meaningful consequences this will continue. He had 7 violations from 2005 to 2011 and those are the ones documented ! What is wrong with 3 strikes and you are out ! I believe that is one way to start to get a handle on this situation. Of course there are other aspects of racing that contribute to these types of violations so there is a lot work to be done. I’m not sure there is any real will to “clean up” the sport. Any serious effort to do so will have to come from outside racing.

      • Claudette

        TRUE! Consequences are essential, however, until ALL tracks are governed by the same strict rules and regulations, and actually enforce them, only then will owners/trainers adhere to their policies. Someone needs to be held accountable. Just because it doesn’t say you can’t, doesn’t mean you can…..and let me tell you, some do. Same in Harness Racing.

  • Richard C

    Let me set the initial defense statement — “My client has no idea how these things got into the barn. It is a conspiracy by shadowy figures.”

    • Don Reed

      “In fact, we don’t even know how the barn got there. Honestly, 24 hours ago, all there was on that sacred patch of earth were barrels of hay, oats and water!”

  • peewee

    that’s all right C town will welcome him with open arms,they always due

  • ShelleyB

    Bute, an NSAID, is meant for short- term use to reduce inflammation and/ or reduce pain. ALL meds, even over-the-counter ones, have side effects, some bad, some good, and good innocuous. Aspirin, a good example, is often used for one of it’s side effects, thinning the blood (aspirin was developed to be an analgesic), and this side effect can be good, bad or neither depending on who is taking it. Bute has several possible negative side effects, including GI bleeding and kidney problems. The problem seems to be the reliance on this med, as so many point out, to deal with a chronic or progressive health / soundness issue.

  • Greg

    7 violations in 13 years, yawn… why not target a guy like Asmussen with 4 or 5 times those and far more serious? I’ll tell you why, because he trains for the wealthiest owners who if they do not win will quit spending those big bucks at the sales, quit racing and the sport will die. So the Asmussen’s keep training, his family sends horses to kill sales and the world in horse racing is at peace

    • Don Reed

      Greg, with the casino money coming in and, each year, 500 assistant trainers burning to go out on their own, we’re never going to run out of new owners, which is another reason why the non-casino race tracks are doomed.

  • Mimi Hunter

    Well said. Bute is a big-time pain killer, and one of the side effects of steroid use is that the horse/person etc. feels great, invincible, and euphoric. Pain is a symptom of a problem and causes the horse to limp or just avoid using what ever part hurts. Also the horse won’t try very hard. Kill the pain; make the horse feel great; and they will try harder than they normally would have if sound. Steroids make bones brittle and hinder healing. The end result is often permanent injury or complete breakdown. And I don’t know about horses, but people on steroids get spontaneous fractures and also go in to shock almost instantly. I really hate to see these trainers use whatever they can find to give them an edge and ‘to Hell with the end results’. And why weren’t the violations from the East coast recognized in California?

  • Don Reed

    “Pat, can I buy a ‘T’? “

  • TG

    Must be injecting Gatorade because whatever he uses sure is not working.. His numbers are terrible !!!

    • Dar

      One. Violations do follow you from one racing authority to EVERY TRACK! Trainer is suspended everwhere! He is now effectively banned from every track in the nation. 2 bute, is not a steroid. It is a legal medication, at prescribed levels, closely monitored by blood and urine tests at tracks. 3 . Athletes get sore. My breakfast is coffee and Advil. If you can help a horse stay sound and comfortable by proper use of meds, why not. Dons crime is not having a vet administer these meds. We are not allowed to have injectible meds or the means to inject them on the track. That is Dons crime. Not administering illegal drugs. Or too much. Or indiscriminatly. Iv seen Don save horses by being able to do his own vet work. He saves horses the vets give no chance. He cares more about horses than all you folks whining about how dreadful race trainers are. Most of you dont, obviously, know what you are talking about. Especially about this particular man. His big crime is wanting to do for himself the theraputic, and at times lifesaving medical assistance his horses need. That, is not legal on the track. You have to pay a vet big bucks to walk down your shedrow and do it for you. But calling a Don Roberson a bad horseman, that just isnt so. He trains racehorses, and we all are faced with tough choices in that business at times, but he knows horses very well and cares de doeply about them. It just irks these guys to run up the vet bill, when they are capable of giving a colicky horse a shot of Banamine themselves.

  • Gallop

    Ray or anyone who knows…
    Will the new RMTC/ARCI med violation penalties have everyone start with a clean slate, or will they start with the prexisting positives/suspensions? (ie. does everyone start at zero strikes or are there some out there with 2-3 strikes already?)
    I assume the HBPA’s will want clean slates…

  • Convene


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