Trainer Joe Sharp, who had eight horses disqualified at Fair Grounds in Louisiana because of positive tests for the Class 2 drug levamisole, said similar cases are pending from multiple horses from his barn who competed at the Churchill Downs fall meet in Kentucky.
Daily Racing Form first reported that Sharp was fined $1,000 by stewards for each Fair Grounds positive the trainer said resulted from a deworming product he began using late last year. The positive tests were from Fair Grounds races between Dec. 1 and Dec. 28 and included Tracksmith, who finished first and is now disqualified and placed last in the Woodchopper Stakes Dec. 28.
Sharp, who has been training since 2014, did not receive a license suspension. According to the Association of Racing Commissioners International, which classifies levamisole as a Class 2 drug with a “B” penalty, the minimum recommended sanction, absent mitigating circumstances, is a 15-day suspension and $500 fine for the first violation.
The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in 2017 issued an advisory about levamisole, a commercially available dewormer for cattle, sheep, goats and pigs that also has off-label uses in horses as an immunostimulant and to treat equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). The advisory states that levamisole can metabolize in horses to the Class 1 drug aminorex, a potent stimulant. RMTC said a positive finding for aminorex “is associated with a potential career-ending penalty.”
Sharp told the Paulick Report aminorex was not present in the Lousiana test samples.
There are numerous worming products on the market specifically for horses that do not contain levamisole.
“We bought it at Tractor Supply,” Sharp said of the dewormer. “It's an over-the-counter worming medication. I had talked to one of my vets about it and they didn't alert us to any concern. It's definitely been an education. We took it out of our barn Dec. 12 when we heard about our first set of positives. We took it out immediately. One horse (Tracksmith) kept it in his system 16 days later. Nobody can give you a straight answer on withdrawal.”
According to Daily Racing Form, the disqualified horses are: Sweet N Salty Kiss, a maiden special weight winner Dec. 1; Tempt Fate, winner of a maiden claiming race Dec. 6; Midnight Fantasy, second in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint on Dec. 14; Robinson, second in a maiden claiming race on Dec. 17; Classy Act, an allowance race winner on Dec. 19; Sycamore Run, maiden special weight winner Dec. 21; O Seraphina, maiden special weight winner Dec. 22; and Tracksmith, Woodchopper Stakes winner on Dec. 28.
“It's literally been a nightmare,” Sharp added, “and it's not a mistake we take lightly. I'm fortunate my owners have been patient and understanding. This kind of thing is not our MO. I'm glad to get it behind me. The hardest part was having to tell the owners the horses are losing their purses.
“It's an expensive lesson for a very, very honest mistake, but we have to move forward.”
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said it could not comment on any pending cases involving Sharp.
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