Jeff Mullins has been ordered to begin serving a 70-day suspension on June 1 after the California Horse Racing Board ruled the California-based trainer violated the terms of his probation in 2008. During the term of his suspension, Mullins must forfeit all stalls assigned to him at CHRB-licensed tracks, and remove all signage, advertising, training equipment, tack, and office equipment.
The suspension effectively means, for the first time in California, a suspended trainer may not simply turn over the operation of his stable to an assistant while he serves out his penalty. In effect, he has to dismantle his operation, and the horses in his care will have to be turned over to someone else.
The case goes back to 2006, when Robs Coin, a horse trained by Mullins, tested positive for mepivacaine after a race at Hollywood Park on July 8, 2006. In February 2008, Mullins received a 90-day suspension for that infraction, with the penalty reduced to 20 days if he avoided any further medication violations for a year from the time of the suspension.
On Aug. 3, 2008, at Del Mar, however, while he was on probation, another Mullins-trained horse, Pathbreaking, was found to be in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide (TCO2), a medication violation believed to be caused through bicarbonate loading, or “milkshaking.” He received 30 days for that violation in May 2010. The CHRB had petitioned to revoke his probation from the 2006 drug positive.
Administrative hearing officer Steffan Imhoff ruled that mitigating circumstances existed in the case and last November recommended a 60-day suspension for the probation violation, reduced to 40 days because Mullins already had served 20 days. The CHRB, however, rejected the proposed decision by Imhoff and modified it with tougher sanctions last month, reverting to the original 90-day suspension. It was reduced to 70 because of 20 days served.
In hearings held last year, Mullins said there have been professional recriminations against him because of the rulings, including reduced stable earnings. He also said he was forced to resign from the board of directors of the California Thoroughbred Trainers.
Mullins became a nationally prominent trainer in 2003 when his stable earnings more than tripled from the previous year to over $4 million and 30% of his starters won. In 2004, he saddled 536 starters and they won $6.9 million. In 2005, Mullins ranked 10th among all North American trainers by earnings.
Those numbers began to fall in 2006, and by the end of 2010, Mullins had slipped to 171st on the national rankings, with just $1.2 million won from 228 starters. This year, he ranks 164th in the national trainer standings and his win percentage is a far more modest 14%.
Two years ago, Mullins brought I Want Revenge to Churchill Downs as the favorite for the 135th Kentucky Derby. The colt was scratched on the morning of the race with an injury. The month before the Derby, on the same day I Want Revenge won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Mullins brought a banned substance into the detention barn, in violation of the New York Racing Association's rules. Late that year, he was banned from participating in NYRA races for six months, a ruling that was not reciprocol at other tracks.
The CHRB ruling applies throughout North America. It isn't clear whether Mullins will appeal the ruling.
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