California Justice: 30 Days for Class 1 Violation?

by | 09.16.2013 | 5:05pm
Keystone Cops, aka Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission

Seventeen months after the horse Red Dwarf won a maiden claiming race at Golden Gate Fields in California with the prohibited drug zilpaterol in his system, his trainer, Genaro O. Vallejo, has been suspended 30 days and fined $3,000.

At the time of the violation, Zilpaterol was classified by the California Horse Racing Board as a Class 1 drug. The Association of Racing Commissioners International classification guidelines currently lists it as a Class 2 substance with Category A penalties, the category with the heaviest fines and suspensions.

RCI's recommended first-offense Category A penalties call for a minimum one-year suspension and minimum $10,000 fine, absent mitigating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances could increase the suspension to three years, according to RCI.

Technically, Vallejo was suspended 90 days, with 60 days stayed, provided the trainer has no more Class 1, 2 or 3 violations during the term of a one-year probation that began Sept. 15. The suspension takes effect Oct. 17 and runs through Nov. 15. Red Dwarf was disqualified from the victory and his purse earnings redistributed. The horse was owned at the time of the violation by Battle Born Racing Stable. He was running for a $12,500 maiden claiming tag when he tested positive. Two races later, he was claimed for $4,000.

Zilpaterol is the muscle and body-building supplement for cattle found in contaminated horse feed earlier this year by Purina Mills that resulted in 48 positive tests in California – none of which was prosecuted. Additionally, Hong Kong racing authorizes identified contamination in a Merck product as the cause of 17 positive tests for zilpaterol last summer.

Unlike the 2013 outbreaks in California and Hong Kong, the Red Dwarf positive on April 12, 2012, appears to be an isolated incident.

The ruling did not elaborate on why a Class 1 violation received only a small fraction of the recommended penalty of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, of which the CHRB is a member.

There was reference to a “stipulated agreement” between the CHRB and Vallejo, but CHRB communications officer Mike Marten said a copy of that agreement is not available.

Doesn't the CHRB owe other owners and trainers, along with the racing public, a better explanation?

UPDATE: According to the CHRB's equine medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur, zilpaterol was a Class 1 in California at the time of the violation due to the fact it was unclassified under Rule 1842. Under California regulations, unclassified drugs are Class 1. The CHRB began to update its drug classifications in August 2012 based on RCI classifications then in place (which had zilpaterol as Class 3). RCI in December 2012 moved zilpaterol to Class 2, but the California process to make it Class 3 was already under way. Thus, zilapterol currently is a Class 3 drug in California though it has remained a Category A penalty throughout this process. Confused? We sure are.

  • Right then, Right now

    More evidence that the CHRB gives only lip service to drug enforcement. Why? The powerful influence of it’s paid ($400,000 year) Medical Director, Dr. Rick Arthur. And, by the way, when was the last time a VET was punished for illegally administering a drug?

  • robet little t tuccille

    this is a joke!!! the 30days n even the fine lets be real here we all know that cheap horses the people that own the horse are betting it and who knows how much they made on bets and the train could have done the same so i say if this happens the people that own the horse should pay a fine as well and not allow to race a race for the same time as the trainer. cause we all know the owner keeps getting off and thats why we have people that try n cheat us the people that bet on it. cause at the end of the day we are the only one’s getting robbed…

    • Lawrence Vaccarelli

      obviously you never owned a horse…take your stinking 2.00 bets and find another sport…fine the owner…your a moron……stupido….managa…testa di cavalo…….but yes the penalty should have been more

    • Ray

      The owner’s pay enough as it is. In this case, the owner will have to pay the purse back. Surprised that he hasn’t fired the trainer already. Owners always seem to take the hit..

      • cal gal

        I go back and forth about owners taking the brunt of it. it is of the opinion of some of us that the horse need get points taken off, then they cant just keep changing trainers and keep running, I know this happens a lot in qh, just find a new drugger to train, …..

      • deb jones

        Guess they will be running COF a bit longer to offset their losses

  • MA

    Great. These are the same people that have grade 1 winner Cost of Freedom running for $10,000 tags. And the same trainer that had multiple grade 3 winner Autism Awareness fatally break down earlier this year in his first start in more than a year. This makes me even more worried for COF’s safety!

    • Donna Keen

      Several organizations, including Remember Me Rescue, have been in touch with this trainer and owner offering to retire Cost of Freedom. They have refused and told me personally it was a ‘business’ decision to continue racing him. That’s just wrong….

      • Knowitall

        You know, while these folks don’t sound like “ideal” participants, they are more similar to most in the game than not. What I always wonder about are the (often much higher profile and well off) connections that had a horse like COF at the height of his success, reaped the most cash and glory on his back, and then turned their back on him. And I guarantee you they will say it was “just business” too.

        PS and CHRB is a JOKE. But credit due for consistency.

        • Ray

          Not sure what COF has to do with any of this; think he just won for fun the other day. As far as the matter at hand, I would think that knowing the severity of the infraction that the CHRB would impend a harsher penalty? There is likely a good reason for 30 days only. Don’t forget that the trainer likely paid an exorbitant amount in lawyer’s fees as it is.

          • Knowitall

            I didn’t bring up COF in the first place, but his connection is that he is trained by the same guy. But I think you know that Ray. We seem to be on the same page about who should “retire” the horse, though.

            As for CHRB, playing negotiating games with lawyers doesn’t impress anyone, just demonstrates the inequity and rampant graft in the Golden State.

      • Ray

        The horse just won the other day, earned an 82 beyer. Maybe the original owners should claim and retire him? They’re the people who made the money with the horse in the first place . Would highly doubt that the current owners plunked down $12,500 just to retire him.

      • Ray

        didn’t your huzzband win with an 8yo at Fairplex last weekend? Hasn’t that horse done enough? Did your huzzband train Valhol, infamous for the buzzer scandal? hmmmm

        • Scott Goddard

          You’re certainly within bounds to dispute her opinion on the
          light penalty, and dispute her assessment of the appropriateness of COF’s future as a racehorse. But you are WAY of bounds to besmirch her reputation for an action done not by her and not by her husband.

          Donna Keen has saved numerous horses, diverting them from a
          kill pen into a loving home. She is a better person than I am, and I suspect you are a better person than your unfortunate choice of words would indicate.

      • Alexa Pilcher

        Yes Donna, it is very wrong, esp. as ‘Freedom’ has reputedly had soundness issues from way back, so one has to really wonder how in the world he is passing the vet nowadays …

  • The California Horse Racing Board places itself above any and all forms of regulation as do trainers when they administer, or cause to have administered, an illegal medication. Commissions and boards do this with impunity and no one forces them to be accountable. Adopting rules, regulations and law is a total waste of time and effort when the regulators are liberal and have their own agenda to serve rather than serving the interests of those they were appointed to protect. They do it because they can and incidents such as this one are living proof of what I am saying. I am also saying that as long as this industry is regulated by political appointees and stakeholders don’t care enough to cause change this egregious situation will continue.

    • Lynn

      Is this a contamination of feed or other products ???

      “Zilpaterol is the muscle and body-building supplement for cattle found
      in contaminated horse feed earlier this year by Purina Mills that
      resulted in 48 positive tests in California – none of which was
      prosecuted. Additionally, Hong Kong racing authorizes identified
      contamination in a Merck product as the cause of 17 positive tests for
      zilpaterol last summer”.

      “Regulated by political appointees,” who know little about chemistry, environmental contaminates, proper care of horses, or even the rules of racing.

      If this was a contamination due to no fault of the trainer there should be NO penalty for the trainer.

      • Benefitofthedoubt

        Yes, due to the history of this drug and the history of contamination, I can not condem this trainer. Why is it only when there is a rash of them that the trainer is considered credible?

    • Well said.

  • Erin Thompson

    Dear CHRB,
    Allowing this to go on with such limp response is
    cheating bettors. Bettors are important to the success of California
    racing. Because cheaters still see a net gain after “punishment,” you
    have created an environment in which you have incentivized cheating. To
    play it straight is financially disincentivized. It is that simple.

    The product isn’t so stellar anyway these days, so combined with this lack of trust, this is why I play IN not CA.

  • Richard C

    Dobbs: “If you’re the police where are your badges?”
    Gold Hat: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

    • Suspended 30 days and a $ 3,000 fine. Heck he will just take a 4 weeks vacation

  • cal gal

    how long did it take? in Nm there is a trainer still avoiding his zilapaterol, due to due process….maybe the court will give him his due process, and do what RCI suggests….

  • Ben van den Brink

    Any responsible board, would have been acting to their rules, but nope not in Cal.

  • SteveG

    Another example of how a business appears to be void of self-awareness & its own welfare by creating an incident which puts a bull’s-eye on its own forehead. The intentional obscurity of the process which enables a less than prescribed punishment hurts the CHRB and they do not seem to recognize it…or, worse, they simply do not care.

    Atrocious self-defeating practice.

    • betterthannothing

      Well said.

      The ruthless has raised to the top by exploiting secrecy and dysfunction. Transparency and 24/7 physical and drug abuse/doping/injury prevention to protect limbs and lives of horses and riders would stifle the profits of the ruthless that wants to wallow in lucrative darkness forever at the expense of everyone and everything else.

  • 4Bellwether666


  • thevoiceoftruth69

    And people wonder why California racing is the worst in America. Right here is exhibit A.

    • cal gal

      trust me on this NM is the worst by far

  • amgm1431

    I own and ride Red Dwarf’s half brother, Poet King. My horse has severe allergies (main reason for lack of racing success) and I wouldn’t give him ANY odd substance. I witheld another homebred horse of mine, Steady On, from the track due to my lack of faith in the CHRB. The latter just scored 68 percent at first level dressage and we’re having fun far away from racing politics

  • Olebobbowers

    I’m betting the next offender in a similar situation will get years rather than days. It’s the way the CHRB rolls. How do you spell inconsistent? I spell it chrb e i e i o…dagnabit!

  • Mimi Hunter

    Really seems like an inconsistent penalty for the infraction, but I would have to completely rule out contaminated feed before getting totally bent out of shape. I’ve been involved in a contamination issue – not an illegal drug or trying to fool the public – a farm I bought had been used as a chemical dump before anyone really worried about where stuff got buried – it was a real mess. So I would have to know the whole story. I’m not saying the trainer blameless. I’m not saying the CHRB was too lenient or too strict. They should explain themselves.

  • Greg Jones

    Hell of a trainer for Cost of Freedom!

  • P. Lo Duca

    The Sarge Nick Hines employing the cream of the crop in trainers……HOORAH!!!!!!!

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