‘The Fugitive’ and Other Trainer Suspension Stories

by | 08.13.2013 | 10:40am

Remember “The Fugitive,” that 1960s TV series later turned into a movie starring Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, the “innocent victim of blind justice” falsely convicted in the murder of his wife? Kimble escaped while en route to prison's death row, then searched far and wide for a one-armed man he saw leave the scene of the crime. He was eventually found innocent, both on television (the final 1967 episode of the five-year series being the most-watched show ever at the time) and in the movie, after Kimble tracked down the one-armed man and solved the crime.

Iowa racing officials went on a manhunt, too, after Veillit', a daughter of Lit de Justice trained by Chris Richard for prominent horse owner and attorney Maggi Moss, tested positive for the Class 3 drug Acepromazine at Prairie Meadows on June 30, 2012. Veillit' had finished second as the favorite in a $15,000 claiming race, one month after she was claimed by Moss for the same price.

Stewards at the Iowa track suspended Richard 15 days and fined him $500 for the infraction, the lowest on the range of recommended penalties by the Association of Racing Commissioners International. Veillit' was disqualified, and the purse money ordered redistributed. Richard, who recently won his third consecutive training title at Prairie Meadows, told stewards he believed the horse may have been given the drug by a disgruntled groom. The groom had been fired the previous day for missing work and came to the barn that morning to collect his final paycheck.

Richard's barn foreman, Angel Medina, told officials the groom, Mark Hines, argued about the amount of the check and was seen later in the day in the stable area. That night, Medina said he saw Hines leaving the track with another trainer in a horse van headed to Kentucky.

Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation, which assigns three agents to Prairie Meadows, attempted to find Hines. They contacted Chris Clark, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's director of enforcement, to see if Hines was working at a Kentucky racetrack. No one was able to hunt him down.

Though Medina did not see Hines in the vicinity of Veillit', Richard's defense was built around the suspicion that Hines was the perpetrator of the drugging. Whether or not stewards believed there was a malicious act by the fired groom, they fined and suspended Richard because Iowa racing regulations assign responsibility to the trainer for the condition of his or her horse.

The regulations state that the trainer is responsible for: “The condition of horses entered in an official workout or race and, in the absence of substantial evidence to the contrary, for the presence of any prohibited drug, medication or other substance, including permitted medication in excess of the maximum allowable level, in such horses, regardless of the acts of third parties.”

Richard appealed, and administrative law judge Jeffrey D. Farrell ruled last Wednesday in a proposed decision to modify the penalty: that the suspension be lifted but the fine doubled, to $1,000.

It was a curious ruling. On the one hand, Farrell wrote in his decision there was not enough “substantial evidence to prove that a third person…administered a prohibited substance to Veillit'.” He concluded, however, that it “must be considered as a mitigating factor to the extent it shows Mr. Richard had no direct responsibility. There is a realistic possibility that Mr. Hines was involved.”

That's a pretty low bar – a “realistic possibility.”

He also said owner Moss, who Farrell wrote in his decision “insists that her horses run drug-free,” was another reason to drop the suspension. “An owner's support of her trainer would ordinarily not be given much weight, but Ms. Moss' support of Mr. Richard could be considered another mitigating factor. Ms Moss is an extremely demanding owner who puts the welfare of her horses above all. She is one of the leading horse owners in the country, and has fired a number of trainers who do not measure up to her standards of care. Ms. Moss convincingly testified that she would not support Mr. Richard if she thought he was involved in the administration of Ace to Veillit'.”

Acepromazine, incidentally, is an easily detected drug that is often used to calm horses before vanning and sometimes used in training to settle a young horse. It is not the kind of drug a trainer would use to get an edge in a race, especially considering how easily it can be detected.

For better or worse, the ruling further dissolves trainer responsibility in medication cases.

Speaking of drug rulings, the California Horse Racing Board, along with suspended trainer Carla Gaines and her lawyer, trainer Darrell Vienna, have made a complete mockery of trainer suspensions.

In response to a request for clarification from Vienna, CHRB attorney Robert Miller said Gaines, recently suspended 30 days for a testosterone violation in two horses, could attend the races as long as she was in “public” areas.

Gaines watched a set of horses from her stable school in the paddock at Del Mar Saturday afternoon and also observed unbeaten Glorious Luck being saddled and winning an allowance race to remain unbeaten in three starts.

The Paulick Report heard from numerous trainers and owners who said previous CHRB suspensions meant licensees were banned from all racetrack grounds and even satellite wagering facilities. Some told stories of seeing suspended licensees being escorted off the grounds by security, and one trainer said stewards threatened to extend a suspension by 30 days if the trainer was seen on racetrack property.

CHRB stewards referred all questions about Gaines' presence to board communications director Mike Marten, who supplied the exchange of letters between Miller and Vienna without comment.

Some are convinced Gaines is getting special treatment because she trains for John Harris, former CHRB chairman and recently elected steward of The Jockey Club. Harris owns one of the horses that tested positive for testosterone.

Suspensions have always been somewhat meaningless because horses are merely turned over to an assistant trainer. Technology (in-barn security cameras, email, cell phone cameras and video) has made it easier than ever for trainers to stay in touch with barn staff during suspensions.

Maybe it's time to do away with suspensions of 30 days or less and simply make the fines stiff enough for the trainer to feel it in his or her bank account.

  • Wally

    Interesting fact on Acepromazine…… Many lead ponies are treated with ace before they go to work to keep them calm. The pills are dissolved in water and put in the horses mouth, the horses spill some of it out onto their lips. I have seen this yellowish mixture dried onto the outside of thir mouths. This could totally result in a positive. We all have seen horses saliva foam from their mouth and blow in the wind onto their bodies….

    • perks

      acepromazine is an injectable.

      • johnnyknj

        It can be given orally, but “the groom did it” or “he got it from the lead pony”
        are pretty lame excuses.

        • Wally

          How do you know? It is pretty sad when people hide behind their computers and judge people when you don’t know what happened. There are hundreds of cases where trainers did not treat their horses and got positives. Sometimes the source is discovered and the trainer is exonerated (of course after having their reputations ruined by people like you). The damage is done, for example Richard Mandella with the scopolamine positive from weeds in the hay. Or, lobaline found which was a metabolite of a wormer and not actually administered.

          Disgruntled employees can very easily screw you, just put a little medicine in the grain of a horse running. Very, very easy.

          • johnnyknj

            I don’t know – and I’m not judging or hiding (any more than you). I stand by the lame excuse comment – just accept the positive and say you don’t know how it happened- take responsibility for your barn. IMHO A-Rod should not be the model for trainers with a drug positive. And the lead pony hypothesis is close to ridiculous.

          • Wally

            You clearly don’t know how advanced the testing has become. Google a picogram. Of course due to the large dose, that doesn’t explain this case.

            Be responsible for your barn? So…don’t feed hay? Have every strand tested first? If you are so sure that the ace off a lead pony wouldn’t result in a positive, go mix some up with water and ask a trainer if you could try it, put a drop in his horses mouth before post time. See if he is ok with it.

          • johnnyknj

            Wally, you are misrepresenting my point with the “ask a trainer if you can try it ” nonsense. Google “straw man argument”. I said the lead pony transference theory was close to ridiculous, not absolutely, positively, scientifically impossible. More like 100,000 to 1. As to this case, if the ace overage was as high as MM implies, it seems something odd happened. Again, IMO they ought to leave it at that and stop with the dog ate my homework stuff

          • Danny Gonzalez

            cup of coffee in the feed works just the same Caffeine is not allowed in a horses system

          • Old Timer

            Wally, just a point of clarification but, lobaline is lobeline, and comes from Indian tobacco, not a metabolite of a wormer. They had upwards of 70 positives for this in Pennsylvania a few years ago, and the commission finally did the correct thing and threw all the positives all out once they finally accepted the true that the positives were naturally coming from the HAY!

            Another reason why the Hay, Oats, and Water groups is a joke! Owners and Trainers can get positives from these three things even! hahahaha

      • Wally

        Available in little yellow pills. 1/2 of a tiny little pill will make a horse drowsy in a few minutes. No one wold knowingly run on this, everyone knows its easy to detect.

      • Jay Stone

        Ninety per cent of ace usage is done orally.

      • Acepromazine comes in non-injectable form.

      • 7cents

        It comes in injectable, pill, and liquid oral suspension forms.

  • stixnstones42

    Ms. Moss’ opinion testimony is of no value and should not have been admitted. Did the Administrative Law Judge actually expect that she might testify as follows: “I believe that my trainer is guilty because I only hire crooks”?

  • betterthannothing

    “…simply make the fines stiff enough for the trainer to feel it in his or
    her bank account.”

    Exactly! BIG fines. Spread the financial pain onto owners and vets as needed.

  • 4Bellwether666

    Ms. Maggie May Moss!!!…

  • kyle

    I don’t get it. Why the need for an investigation at all. Just ask Maggi. As she has stated previously on here she knows everything that goes in her stable.

  • Aaron

    Does anyone not see the real problem here? Richard supposedly drugs a horse in 2012 and now, at the end of the 2013 meet, we have a ruling? Why in the world does it take that long?

    • turffilly

      blahhh blahhh blahhhhaaaa

  • Richard C

    The trainer responds to a bored, listless racing commission – with members looking at their watches and mumbling to each other that they thought the amount of cash raised for the governor’s re-election campaign assured them a better appointed position — “Gentlemen, I can honestly tell you I had nothing to do with this crime. Actually, it was Professor Plum, in the Lounge, with a Lead Pipe.”

  • Dan Jividen

    Ray Paulick has made a meaningful suggestion – one worthy of thoughtful discussion. Perhaps it would be better for racing authorities to do away with suspensions and focus on stiff fines for trainers who violate the rules.

    • RayPaulick

      I can’t claim authorship to the idea. It’s been tossed around for some time by others. I heard it most recently from California horseplayer advocate Andrew Asaro.

    • Tinky

      “Stiff” fines? How’s that working out for the Wall Street banks?

      If you or I get caught stealing a TV, we probably go to jail. HSBC launders hundreds of millions of dollars for drug cartels and pays a fine.

      Good luck with that idea.

  • jumpjockey1

    Do maggi moss’s horses run on lasix ? If so I didn’t realize that was drug free ..

    • RayPaulick

      Veillit’ was given Lasix on the day of the race in question.

      • jumpjockey1

        I was stating the obvious that she insists they run “drug free” which in my mind would rule out lasix and all other legal medication .. she must have meant illegaldrugs .. well good for her .

  • Raider

    You don’t win at 35% in 318 starts without drugs!! When you claim off the guy that can’t walk and never run even close to what he gets out of them. I am sorry that is not hay and oats!!!

  • Patti Davis

    As a licensed horse owner mainly racing in Illinois (I know: poor me!), I can tell you how easy it is at both Arlington Park and Hawthorne to just enter any trainer’s barn and do just about anything that you’d please. When I go to visit my horses on the backside to feed them treats I first try to make my presence known to the trainer, assistant trainer, foreman, groom(s), ANYBODY related to that barn because it’s the right thing to do. I’ve also left notes under the trainer’s office door informing, “I was here and saw X horse.” Oftentimes, though, no one is there except me and the horses. They can VERY easily be “gotten to” … and I don’t just mean feeding peppermints.

    Backstretch security’s a joke, in my humble opinion.

    • Nancy L Reagan

      Patti, I have to agree with you. I believe you use the same trainer I do. Many times there is no one left in the barn if I go after the races. In the morning there are plenty of people there who can verify that I was in the barn. I know there is a night watchman but he can only be in one place at a time and there are a couple of barns involved with this stable. Even if security rides around the barns, they can’t see what’s going on inside unless they walk through.

  • jttf

    maggie moss’ horses run drug free ? she hires trainers who arent drug free. amoss, asmussen, englehart. didnt she get asmussen off of a 6 month suspension two years ago ? how come we didnt get the details on how he got off ? richard/moss off of the claim results in a high winning percentage. fine these trainers the total purse of the race, that they run their positive horse in.

  • azeri1

    Sorry but if you fire a disgruntled stablehand, I would think you would have your barn on high alert for security. I think a higher level of diligence is a trainer’s responsibility in these circumstances. The trainer is still responsible.

    • Exactly!

      • Cconcerned Observer

        Full time barn security is a physical and especially financial impossibility. Just not realistic.

        • Really? Web cams in the stalls is very affordable.

          • Cconcerned Observer

            Yep. Just like every bank, store, and parking lot. Great …after the fact evidence. You going to watch it full time? 20 barns, 80 corners, 80 recordings. Big job, big expense. We are not talking about Derby horse security are we? Not realistic.

          • Since it is always “accidental” that the horse got the drug, camera evidence would either show the culprit or show NO culprit. Not perfect security, no, but it would sure cut down on the lying. If trainers were really concerned about security, they could hire guards. Certainly trainers who are making good money could afford it. I would do it, so why don’t they? Could it be because they KNOW where the horses get the drug?

  • maggimoss

    Ray, Just posted the real facts of this case , which the administration apparently doesnt want your viewers to read; They were simply the truth of this case which you did not post;
    I think its important in trainer responsibility to post the truthful facts of this case;
    This was a case where the amount of ace was massive enough to kill this horse, and generated a criminal investigation. This was a case where no one felt Richard was responsible or could have prevented it. This was a case where a trainer did absolutely nothing to cause this administration but still has this on his record- why would you not post the truthful facts of what really happened?

    • lindleypaxtonbarden

      I’m sorry, Ms. Moss, but “The regulations state that the trainer is responsible for: “The
      condition of horses entered in an official workout or race and, in the
      absence of substantial evidence to the contrary, for the presence of any
      prohibited drug, medication or other substance, including permitted
      medication in excess of the maximum allowable level, in such horses,
      regardless of the acts of third parties.”” Someone has to be responsible, and if it means buying cameras to record activity at your barn, then it must be done. Only then will the REAL story be told who/what/when these situations occur!

      • Wally

        There are many cases of contamination where trainers have prevailed over this rule. Just recently purina feed in California was contaminated resulting in many positives for a steroid. Thank god the source was discovered. This rule hurts innocent people and is lazy. Commissions need to seek the truth not just prosecute.

      • Jan

        If the dose was high enough to kill the horse, there is no way that the groom got it ready, it was dragged to the paddock, saddled, post paraded, then raced with nobody knowing. The rest of the country did not just fall off the turnip truck.

    • If there was enough of the drug to “kill the horse” why did it finish second? Be real.

  • Craig Brogden

    The absolute insurer rule should put all trainers on alert to have a quality camera system installed in their barn. These systems are easy to purchase and install in any setting. This would protect them from any risk to contamination from outsider when a horse tests positive like this case and many others who claim the same.

  • Jay

    Maggi Moss meet John Harris. John Harris meet Maggi Moss.

  • pete newell

    And yet nothing on the Tampa Bay Jane case?

  • guest

    Can you divulge the actual numbers?

  • G. Rarick

    If this filly was given “a massive amount of ACE, enough to harm her,” how is it possible she was allowed to be saddled and started? A horse given a “massive amount” of ACE is pretty visible to a good horseman, long before any blood test confirms that. If a dose was that big, the trainer AND the vet should have been more than suspicious before the race. Just asking (and not taking any opinion about how the ACE got there in the first place).

    • Harry

      Ace doesn’t help????????? Wow think again what if this filly was a really washing out filly and it calmed her down don’t give her alot just enough to take a little edge off!!!!!! She would run her eye balls out!!!!!!!!!!!! This used to be the Sport of Kings a gentlemens game like in England it still is!!!!!!!!!! In the good ol USA its the Sport of Syringes what a shame what used to be the greatest game in the world has been tore apart by DRUGS just keep one step in front of the testing and if you get caught nothing happens anyway
      Right Carla you just show what a mockery the system really is!!! Turn the horses over to your help and go to the races like nothing happened!!!!!! WOW whats going to next?????? What ever it is won’t surprise me any more !

  • Michael Infurna

    Listen, no one knows all the details of whatever happened at the barn in this case or with Cibelli or anyone else that has a positive. The distressing thing to me is that when a horse has an overage of ANY medication, it is never the trainers fault!! Year after year, trainers have one of their horses test positive and it is ALWAYS a disgruntled groom, I gave the injection within the allowable timeframes or a stupid vet misunderstood my directions. This story is getting old!! For once I would love to hear a trainer say “Yes, I take responsibilty for the positive as we tried to get an advantage”. When will that day ever occur?? NEVER!!!

    • Wally

      Yes, but those are the stories that receive press because the trainers fight it. There are thousands of other positives for therapeutic overages you don’t hear about. It is very expensive to fight these things, people don’t usually fight if they know their guilty because its almost impossible to win and brings more attention to the matter.

  • This is simply a case of a trainer failing to fulfill the required responsibility of protecting his horse from the actions of third parties. According to the above article, Ms Moss, testified that the test results, in her opinion, were the action of a third party and then testified that the horse was left unattended for a period of time between training hours and a time when the help returned to prepare for evening racing. Ms Moss and her trainer / client clearly failed to establish that any third party(s) had engaged in the administration of any drug to the horse in question. As such, the Absolute Insurer Rule prevails.

  • Nayrod

    Trainers know exactly what’s going on in the barn. I was a vet tech for many years and believe me I’ve seen a lot of things going on. Things that the vet wasn’t going to be a part of. Now, in one defense of a trainer. I body clipped a horse and used ace. I wasn’t advised the horse was going to a race in a few days. That was the error of the trainer, who had to run to the Stewarts and report this error. The trainer is fully responsible of the in/outs of his barn, period!

  • Absolute Insurer

    If you read the decision its clearly states that Richard had ace in the office in his barn and that he uses it for ponies and two year olds. Are trainers in Iowa allowed to have classified drugs in their office or control ? Are trainers in Iowa permitted to administer classified drugs without a vet ? I would say that using ace on 2 yo in training qualifies as not being drug free. Any clarification on the Iowa rules for possession and administration of ace by a trainer would be appreciated. Just curious.

    • Old Timer

      In any state, you can have drugs that are virtually any class (maybe not 1 as they are not considered therapeutic at all) as long as they have been prescribed by a vet and they are pills, powder, topical ointments, tubes of a paste, medicated mud, etc etc. You can not have injectables or syringes on a race track. That is typically outlined in the rules.

  • delmarla

    Ray, I agree the suspension of keeping the trainer off the grounds and away from their horses in a case like Carla Gaines is not a good thing. It’s not good for the horses, their owners who spend so much money in the game and it’s nonsense for what Gaines’s case was about. Fining the trainer if they feel they must would be a better way to go for the sport all the way around. The sport is in enough trouble as it is.

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