Yet Another Chapter In The Masochistic Saga

by | 12.28.2016 | 11:14pm
Masochistic wins his first race of 2016 on July 8 after spending time on the vet's list so he could be treated with an anabolic steroid

Anyone else suffering from Masochistic fatigue?

For a 6-year-old who's made just 14 career starts, he sure gets a lot of attention.

There was the big maiden win at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day in 2014 when the California-bred gelding won by 14 lengths. His career debut six weeks earlier – against fellow Cal-breds – was a sight to behold. He seemed barely able to lift his feet for much of the way, finishing unplaced while never showing any ability or threatening to hit the board. His jockey, Omar Berrio, had him racing behind horses at the top of the stretch and appeared to employ a wrestling move made famous by The Great Khali.

It didn't help that a post-race sample from Masochistic came up positive for acepromazine, a tranquilizer, at nearly 40 times the legal limit.

The California Horse Racing Board launched an investigation, though not soon enough to prevent Masochistic from his Derby day romp and a likely betting bonanza for those in the know. He was 8-1 when plodding along to a fifth-place finish in his debut but hammered down to 2-1 favoritism against stronger competition in Kentucky.

Avila eventually was fined $10,000 and suspended 60 days for the acepromazine positive. No betting coup was ever proven.

Less than a year later, a significant interest in Masochistic was sold from Los Pollos Hermanos Racing to Jay Em Ess Stable's Samantha Siegel and the horse was turned over to Ron Ellis. Masochistic made his first graded stakes start a winning one for Ellis, taking the Grade 2 Kona Gold in April 2015.

If you follow horse racing, you know the rest of the story.

Masochistic has made several virtual trips to the vet's list for Ellis so he could be injected with an anabolic steroid. Ellis described Masochistic as a little horse who had trouble keeping on weight. It didn't interrupt his training whatsoever and the horse, according to his trainer, benefited from the drug. Knock me over with a feather.

After spending 60 days on the vet's list the first time, Masochistic emerged to win the G1 Triple Bend in June 2015. He did the same thing twice this year, spending 60 days on the vet's list each time to receive a steroid injection while not missing a beat in his training.

The second time around this year, there was a problem. The prohibited drug had not cleared his system after Masochistic's second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, triggering a positive test at the California Horse Racing Board's official laboratory at the University of California-Davis. Stewards are expected to officially disqualify Masochistic after a hearing on Friday.

Ellis, who by all accounts is a nice guy as far as trainers go, was probably sweating bullets waiting for the test to clear. He knew a pre-race test – done eight days before the Nov. 5 Sprint as part of the Breeders' Cup out-of-competition testing program – showed trace elements of stanozolol.

He gambled that it would clear the horse's system by race day … and lost. Since then, he's made appearances on virtually every electronic media outlet, with the possible exception of “Dr. Phil,” to say how unfair the whole thing is but that's he truly sorry and accepts all the responsibility.

Almost all.

Ellis did say on one radio appearance that Dr. Rick Arthur, the California Horse Racing Board's equine medical director should share in the blame. Arthur, after all, knew the horse tested positive in the out-of-competition sample. Ellis presumably wanted Arthur to scratch the horse from the Breeders' Cup because he didn't have the common sense to do it himself.

Breeders' Cup officials couldn't scratch him, either, because California law prevented the CHRB from telling anyone about the positive, even though Breeders' Cup created and paid for the testing program.

Apparently, a positive test for a drug prohibited on race day is meaningless in California if the sample is tested before race day.

So now here's the punch line to this entire mess. Masochistic can't run this weekend in a minor stakes at Santa Anita because he remains on the stewards list as a result of his Nov. 5 positive. That's eight weeks ago and more than four months since Ellis said he received his last stanozolol injection.

To get off the list, Masochistic must have a sample that tests completely clean. That sample, according to published reports, was sent to the CHRB's lab earlier this week but hasn't been cleared before entry time.

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