Ask Ray: The DQ That Wasn’t?

by | 08.28.2013 | 4:17pm

The “Ask Ray” button on the Paulick Report website brings a lot of questions my way, some of them easy to answer, others nearly impossible.

A recent question about a horse – whose disqualification from a win due to a drug positive was reversed by a racing commission without comment – falls into the latter category.

Here's what happened.

A horse named Shock Appeal, owned by Kazdan Racing Stables and trained by Alejandro Maymo, was DQed from a June 15 win at Penn National when test results came back positive for Naproxen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory therapeutic medication that can be a potent pain reliever but also is slow to metabolize. A split sample from Louisiana State University confirmed the finding.

The stewards ruling disqualifying the horse from the victory was issued July 12, elevating the original second-place finisher, owner-trainer Heather O'Hern's Bunny Blizzard, to first place purse money and awarding several other horses increased earnings from the race. The decision also meant Bunny Blizzard had lost the “non-winners of two races” conditions that he had been running in.

The official chart of the June 15 race from Equibase, along with race records of Shock Appeal and Bunny Blizzard, reflected the disqualification.

A little more than a month later, however, the owners of Bunny Blizzard and the other horses moved up by the DQ were told to give the money back, that the commission had overruled the stewards. There was no explanation, just an edict.

One of those owners contacted the Paulick Report through an “Ask Ray” inquiry, asking me to explain how a horse with a drug positive could be disqualified and then reinstated without an appeal from the owner or trainer. On Aug. 20, I sent a note to Walt Remmert, acting executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, asking if it was true the commission had reversed the stewards' ruling.

I also asked Remmert  (incidentally, he is the third “acting” executive secretary for the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission in just over three years, following Dan Tufano and Mike Dillon, who both resigned) if he could provide an explanation from the commission for the reversal.

It took over a week to get a response, but on Aug. 28 Remmert sent a copy of both the original July 12 ruling by the stewards disqualifying Shock Appeal and an Aug 15 ruling from the commission rescinding the decision.

There was no explanation given by Remmert on the reason for the reversal.

Sometimes the only explanation I can provide is: this is Pennsylvania.

  • 4Bellwether666

    Remmert is just another dumb *** in a long line of dumb ***** dragging “The Game” down…These type of people have no shame…Period…

  • Mike

    More irrelevant minutia,that’s Ray!

  • Wally

    I would be curious to see the levels. Naproxen has a threshold and a positive should be clear cut unless the split came back under the threshold. Since pa got their own lab and supertesting there have been rashes of unexplainable positives in minute amounts for drugs that are not used in horses. Lobaline, quinidine, and one other I forget. People who weren’t using common therapeutics were getting positives for billionths of a gram and getting dq’d. They need a expert to weed through these findings and determine what effected performance and what was not, to cut through this mess. Meanwhile, pa has the dirtiest tracks in the country as the super trainers use drugs undetectable after the race. International experts have disagreed with their findings and they ignore it. Although seemingly unrelated to this story, I would say that pa is more likely to prosecute the innocent rather than let off the guilty.

  • Honey bunny booboo

    As of now this is the $7000.00 question!.

  • Roger

    I would file a complaint with the PA Attorney General and demand an independent investigation.

    • 4Bellwether666

      Only recourse left and then plan on not running your Horses in pa…

    • Harry

      Just another reason for the government has to step up and get involved in this industry!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When it’s positive it’s positive no excuses!!!!!!!!! And ever one wants to know why the Euro’s don’t want to come over here!!!!!!!!!!!! Another slap in the face to horse racing!!!!!!!!!! Drug infested business and I’ really love this game!!!!! How’s a honest trainer going to stay in the game????????? He can’t !!!!!!!!!!!! Game of good care good feed and love for the horse is GONE and so is he!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Chris Lowe

        See the story about NYRA’s “profit” this year and then tell me the government has to step up and get involved in the industry.

      • bobjonestwo

        Great idea, get the government involved to fix the problem. Especially a drug problem, how’s their “War on Drugs” going?, or their “War on Poverty? or their “War on Terror”? They even managed to screw up New York’s OTB’s, how is that even possible to screw up a business that you only have to open the doors and take people’s money? How’s the deficit going, and the border, and the jobs problem and every other thing they have screwed up? Good way to finally kill off the horse industry, bring in the government.

        • bryane

          imagine the war on drugs or terror…or especially imagine border security with NO government involvment. they would be just like the integrity of horse racing today: nonexistent. when you have an industry run entirely by dishonest and greedy people, someone needs to step in and clean it up. no one has the authority besides the government. that’s why every other respectable racing program around the world has a central governing body established by their government. so that it doesn’t devolve into sanctioned organized crime like horse racing in this country has. most of the truly big money gamblers won’t even bet in this country…except the ones with the jockeys rooms on speed dial.

          • bobjonestwo

            Yes, imagine border security without the government . Most accurate counts have 40 million illegals now in this country and all of the drugs still streaming into our country virtually unabated through the southern border. There are actual signs put up by the government in many of our southwestern states warning people not to travel in certain parts of our own country because it isn’t safe due to the violent Mexican drug cartels. The only help I’ve seen from our government on border security is arresting Border Agents who do their job, remember the Ramos and Campeon tragedy where these two border agents were jailed for years for wounding an illegal bringing drugs into the country and the illegal drug dealer was given immunity and on record continued bringing huge loads of drugs into our country for years after. And don’t forget the treasonous “Fast and Furious ” gun scandal where this administration admittedly sold truckloads of high powered guns to the Mexican drug cartels in order to blame it on America’s 2nd amendment and which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Mexican and American citizens, including several law enforcement officers. There maybe be crooks running horse racing, but they are amateurs compared to the ones running the government.

    • Mike

      The Attorney General is appointed by the Governor as is the Secretary of Agriculture to whom the Executive Secretary (who runs the Racing Commission) reports to. And, there has been three Executive Secretaries in just over three years. Get the picture.

  • Jersey shore

    Wally, I am curious why the level is relevant. The rules state
    Zero tolerance.

    • Wally

      There is an allowable level of many therapeutic medications including naproxen (banamine), bute, etc. there are also corresponding withdrawl times recommended in order to be under that level at race time. A few years ago, horseman were following these guidelines and a flood of positives occurred. Partly because they changed the testing and partly because the recommended withdrawl times were errors on the part of the commission,

      • Hopefieldstables

        “naproxen (banamine), bute, etc.”

        hmmm, maybe there is a clue here to this positive (or a future one)

        • Wally


      • Evelyn Waugh

        Note: Flunixin (veterinary trade name = Banamine) is NOT naproxen (human medicine trade name = aleve).

        • Wally

          Just a misuse of quotes

          • Hopefieldstables

            quotes ?

    • Wally

      There are thresholds for common therapeutics and recommended withdrawl times. They are extremely low and below any therapeutic effect. Anywhere from 24 hrs to several weeks. For example, if you took a painkiller or NSAID you wouldn’t feel it’s effects the next day.

      • Hopefieldstables

        what is the effective plasma concentration for bute ?

        • Arsenal Hill

          The threshold level of bute is 2mg per ml of plasma!

          • Hopefieldstables

            Actually I think you meant to say 2 mcg / ml of plasma (still 4mcg/ml in many places)

            In any case, threshold concentration and effective plasma concentration are two very different things.

            The lack of response is unsurprising. NHBPA propaganda cannot stand up to a challenge. Particularly when it is just being regurgitated.

          • Arsenal Hill

            You are correct; it is 2 micrograms per mililiter of plasma.

          • Wally

            Well the change from 5mcg to 2 mcg came about from a request by the pre race inspection vets. This was the threshold they agreed would not effect their ability to do a pre race exam where they are checking for soundness, heat, swelling, range of motion, etc. At 5 mcg you could definitely see a difference in the horse, none at two.

            The withdrawl is 24 hours but vets are recommending much more than this.

          • Hopefieldstables

            That is all very interesting (with a nice spin), but still no response to a simple relevant question; what is the effective plasma concentration of bute.

          • Wally

            Why don’t you tell us? I have not done a study. All I can say as that this is the level the veterinarians decided would not effect the soundness, swelling heat etc that they look for in the pre race exam. They are more qualified than I. I can also say that after 24-36 hours I no longer see the effects of Bute in my horses. That is why the recommended dose is more often than this.

  • Don Reed

    “Sometimes the only explanation I can provide is: this is Pennsylvania.”

    Good thing this isn’t where the Heisman Trophy is handed out; Vince Young would have been screwed twice.

    “Football Writers Association of America Past-President Dennis Dodd… decided to fictitiously award Bush’s vacated 2005 award to Vince Young. He wrote, ‘Since the Heisman folks won’t re-vote, we did. Vince Young is the new winner of the 2005 Heisman.’ (Young had finished second in the voting.)”
    — Reggie Bush profile, Wikipedia (copied 08/28/13).

  • Honeybuns

    Would this classify as “Being a little bit pregnant”? 0 tolerance means 0 tolerance. Sounds like the typical Penn National corruption cover up!!

  • jttf

    five years ago, i wanted an explanation on how the stewards put up the wrong horse in a race at penn national. the steward i talked to, told me to get a hold of the pennsylvania investagator at penn national. i contacted him, and he was very rude over the phone. he was wondering why 12 other people were complaining about the same incident. two days later he gave me his decision on his investigation. he told me the horse in question lost by one pixel in the photo. i asked for a copy of the photo and he wouldnt send me one. then i asked him what were the odds on the horse in question ? he didnt know. they were 90 to 1. this is one investigator who didnt have a clue.

    • bobjonestwo

      Don’t think it is just Pennsylvania, it’s one big problem hurting horse racing, no real oversight, no one to answer to. Here’s just one of dozens of examples I have personally witnessed here in Nebraska over the years, at Fonner Park more than 25 years ago, they put up the 4th place finisher as finishing 3rd although he had lost 3rd by almost a length, I was standing at the finish line. It cost me a large trifecta payout. Immediately after the results were posted, all the tv monitors were turned off. No replays were shown and no photos were shown, as is always the case after every race. I went to the office demanding to see a photo and was told I could not and that there would not be one and was then told to leave. Whenever money is involved and the foxes are watching the henhouse, there will be plenty of funny business. I’ve witnessed dozens, if not hundreds of instances while being an avid race fan for 50 years. That’s the way it has always been done and probably always be done. Another glaring problem that no one ever addresses is how often a huge favorite runs out of the money, usually running dead last, after a bridge jumper dumps a huge show bet on the 2/5 or 3/5 shot. In many cases I just see the horse pulled up, they aren’t taking any chances. These horses must run out at least 95% of the time, I wonder what the stats are of overwhelming favorites in races not affected by bridge jumpers, running off the board, it sure isn’t near 100%. I could care less about some idiots large show bet, but it sure plays havoc with my picks 3’s, picks 4’s and pick6’s. Again, no one seems to care about this obvious abnormality.

      • bryane

        and yet you say government regulation would be bad. so who do you expect to be in charge of this oversight that is so lacking? do you think the thieves in charge now will DECIDE to regulate themselves? would our communities police themselves without the government? no. all of the parties in charge of horse racing have their own interests only as priorities. none of them will ever do anything for the benefit of the betting public. only government oversight can help at this point. but i think it is too late for that. have you been watching Saratoga? if those jockeys can get away with that on a daily basis, there are no rules anymore. and zero oversight

        • bobjonestwo

          Remember Reagan’s famous quote about the scariest 9 words in the world, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.

  • Rocket Scientist

    Talk about putting the cart before the horse. The tracks that allow this nonsense to go on, are just handing the ammunition to the politicians that will eventually pull the rug from under them and take away the slots, table games, etc and give it to state run casinos. Take a look at Ontario, and ask Woodbine if it can’t happen.
    Why would a self serving politician not stand on a soap box and yell “Rampant Corruption!” “Stop supplementing purses and giving money to those that allowed this to go on. Let’s give the casinos to the people and all my cronies (I mean well qualified people) will run it. Now there is more money for give aways and the schools.” “PS – vote for me.”

    • Wally

      Well, we don’t know the explanation here yet. I think the commission is hurting themselves by not being transparent. There must be a story for them to reverse the stewards decision here and ask for the money back. In these cases, the stewards decisions mean nothing, they just rubber stamp. This is why they should not dq a horse before a case is complete, it gets too complicated. By Dqing a horse immediately, you are circumventing the trainers right to due process.

  • John McEvoy

    How could the “official chart” contain info resulting from a drug test conducted long after the running of the race?

    • RayPaulick

      Charts are no longer frozen in time by print deadlines. The DQ was added to the chart and then taken away.

  • Tickle

    The point that us being missed is. No matter what level the horse had in its system, at the time the commission or stewards deemed it enough to call positive. They had the trainer agree to send split sample off. Said sample comes back positive also. Trainer does not appeal the ruling. The commission sends another ruling stating that it is final. Then 30-60 days later decide they made a mistake. During this time bunny blizzard is scratched from a race she is favorite in (no longer met requirements of condition) ran two more races as nw3L and has now been put back to the nw2L condition. I think the point here is that the commission made a ruling and then changed a ruling. Maybe it’s true there are allowable levels of these drugs. So be it. The problem is they made a ruling and then decided they made a mistake. Why are they not held accountable for there mistake.

  • Tickle


  • Racing continues on the down hill slide. We have a regulatory system that works extremely well when being administered by qualified people. Absent those people, what you see is what you get with some rare exceptions. I have reached the ugly conclusion that the status quo will be with us for quite a while because not enough people care enough to do anything about it. DO being the operative word, bitching won’t get it! Where is the leadership? I don’t like what I hear about this situation in Pennsylvania but until the facts come out I don’t have much to say. The secrecy aspect could place them in violation of their own rules or PA statutes and if so they will continue with business as usual because not enough people care enough to act.

  • ziggypop

    note to trainers and owners…stay out of Pennsylvania, if this is how they do business.

  • Wally

    Ray, has there been any response to your inquiries from the racing commission? There must be a story behind this reversal of the naproxen positive without a hearing. Don’t they have to disclose this?

  • Laurierace

    Give Em Hell Heather! No way I would give that back without a court order.

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