by | 11.17.2010 | 12:46am

By Ray Paulick

Procaine, the local anesthetic detected above threshold levels in the Todd Pletcher-trained filly Wait a While when she finished third in the Oct. 24 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita Park, is used in association with penicillin G to prolong the minimum inhibitory concentration of the drug; in other words to keep penicillin in the bloodstream longer.

The California Horse Racing Board filed a complaint against Pletcher for violation of CHRB Rules 1943.2, 1844 (a) (b) (d), and 1887 after the Maddy Laboratory at the University of California-Davis detected an excessive amount of procaine. The Pennsylvania Equine Research Laboratory, a split-sample lab chosen by Pletcher, confirmed the test.

Procaine, which in its pure form can act as a stimulant, is a Class 3 drug in California. The penalty level for its presence is Class B, which calls for redistribution of the purse (Wait a While won $213,000), a minimum 30-day suspension absent mitigating circumstances, and a minimum fine of $500. Hollywood Park stewards will conduct a hearing Dec. 14 on the disqualification of Wait a While. No hearing date has been set for Pletcher.

Because procaine is extremely sensitive in testing, some veterinarians will use intravenous penicillin on a horse that may be close to a race rather than procaine penicillin. That, however, can cause an increase in the incidence of diarrhea, according to one veterinarian. Withdrawal times for procaine can vary, with some horsemen reporting positive tests for the drug for as long as three weeks after its administration. The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium recommends a 15-day withdrawal time for procaine penicillin G. The CHRB has no specific withdrawal times but offers free pre-race testing to determine whether or not procaine has cleared a horse's system.

According to sources close to the Pletcher stable, Wait a While may have been treated with procaine penicillin for a respiratory infection roughly 18 days before the Breeders' Cup. She won the Yellow Ribbon Stakes on Sept. 27. Wait a While has been retired with 12 wins in 24 starts and earnings in excess of $2 million. She raced for Alan and Karen Cohen's Arindel Farm. Alan Cohen is the owner of the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League.

Pletcher, the winner of four consecutive Eclipse Awards as North America's outstanding trainer from 2004-07, could not be reached for comment. He last served a medication suspension in December 2006 and January 2007 when he lost an appeal regarding a 2004 positive test for mepivacaine and was suspended for 45 days.

Pam Blatz-Murff, senior vice president of racing for the Breeders' Cup, said that organization currently has no sanctions against trainers whose horses test positive for any substance other than anabolic steroids. The Breeders' Cup instituted penalties that could lead to a lifetime ban for a trainer with multiple anabolic steroid positives in the World Championships races.

“It is being discussed right now to determine what we might or might not do in the future to maybe tighten up the regulations from our side of the fence,” Blatz-Murff told the Paulick Report. “This (charge against Pletcher) was just announced and we certainly support all of the actions of the CHRB. It's a little early for us to make a statement other than our support of their function. How we progress and the improvements that are made is something that will unfold in the next months going forward.

“Obviously, Todd will have representation and he has due process,” she added.

Copyright © 2008, The Paulick Report

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