Steve Asmussen should not be allowed on the Eclipse Award ballot as North America's leading trainer this year, no matter how many races or how much money he's won. I don't think Todd Pletcher should be, either, or Rick Dutrow, or Larry Jones or any other trainer who in this calendar year has either served a suspension for a medication violation or has a pending complaint for a banned substance in a horse under his care.
The Eclipse Awards are the sport's highest honor. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which is “in charge” of these awards (along with the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers Association), could go a long way toward cleaning up the sport's image by instituting a policy, beginning in 2009, that will exclude from consideration any individuals with confirmed or pending medication infractions in the same calendar year. The exclusion should be extended to owners as well. A separate set of standards should be written for jockeys (i.e., abuse of the whip, an excessive number of interference suspensions, etc.).
It's overdue. The sport is drowning in bad publicity. Action is required.
Let us know what you think on this subject. The Daily Paulick Poll at www.paulickreport.com asks whether medication violations should disqualify a trainer from Eclipse Award consideration. Feel free to add your comments below.
As for Pletcher, call me naïve, but I believe his story of how Wait a While tested positive for procaine when she finished third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Oct. 24. As the Paulick Report first detailed and Pletcher later confirmed, the Maria's Mon filly came out of her victory in the Yellow Ribbon in late September with a respiratory infection that necessitated treatment with penicillin.
Pletcher and his veterinarian had options on what to use, but they apparently decided to go with a penicillin product that contains procaine, which one leading veterinarian told me is the most effective way to treat the type of problem Wait a While had. It also takes a long time to clear the bloodstream. If the last treatment was given 18 days before the Breeders' Cup, as we reported and Pletcher also stated, and the withdrawal time recommended by the Racing and Medication Consortium is 15 days (emphasis on the word recommended), Wait a While should have tested clean.
The California Horse Racing Board, which now will adjudicate the charges against Pletcher through its board of stewards, offers complimentary testing to horsemen before a race to determine if therapeutic substances such as procaine have cleared a horse's system. Pletcher had this option and apparently did not take advantage of it.
I'd give Pletcher the benefit of the doubt that he may have followed the advice of a veterinarian or the RMTC recommended withdrawal guidelines for procaine penicillin and still got burned by a positive test. Nevertheless, the responsibility is his, and absent mitigating circumstances should be fined and suspended in line with the CHRB guidelines.
He also should be on the list of trainers who in 2008 have served medication suspensions or are facing charges and should be excluded from consideration for Eclipse Awards.
Copyright © 2008, The Paulick Report
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