A board of stewards in Kentucky has rescinded a trio of positive tests for ractopamine and will not impose any sanctions on trainers George “Rusty” Arnold and Joe Sharp, or owners Calumet Farm and Brad Grady. News of the positives and associated penalties prompted a public outcry last week, given Arnold's pristine record.
Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Executive Director Marc Guilfoil said new information came to light on Monday afternoon which suggested the three tests from runners at Kentucky Downs in September 2016 should not be considered positive. None of the licensees will serve a suspension, and the purses and placings from the relevant races will not be altered. A stewards' hearing in January had resulted in a 90-day suspension and $1,500 in fines for Arnold, and 30 days with a $1,000 fine for Sharp.
Sharp trained Bankers Holiday, who finished third in the fourth race on Sept. 10, 2016 for owner Brad Grady. Arnold trained Prudence, winner of the fifth race on the same card and Quality Emperor, second-place finisher in the fourth race on Sept. 15, 2016. Both were Calumet Farm-owned.
“Yesterday, February 19, 2018, the KHRC staff received new information concerning the testing methodologies and effects of ractopamine,” said Guilfoil. “This information was forwarded to the stewards, who after carefully considering the information, determined this morning that in the interest of fairness, the stewards' prior rulings concerning the ractopamine cases will be rescinded.”
The rulings list is expected to be updated Feb. 21.
As a drug is processed by the body, it may be broken down into pieces which are chemically different from the original substance. These are referred to as metabolites. Guilfoil said there were metabolites for ractopamine in the test samples, but there was not a sufficient amount of ractopamine itself. The stewards were advised Monday that without the presence of ractopamine in a sample, it should no longer be considered “positive.”
Ractompanine is an additive sometimes mixed in with swine or cattle feed to fatten the animals ahead of slaughter. It can have similar action to anabolic steroids.
Guilfoil said he maintains confidence in LGC Sport Science, the laboratory responsible for drug testing for Kentucky.
“It's unfortunate that it came down this way,” said Guilfoil. “You look at what they've gone through. Obviously they've had the expense of lawyers, and the emotional part of it, all that stuff … it's just not right.
“At the end of the day, we did the right thing [by rescinding].”
Arnold agrees, and says he harbors no ill will toward the commission or the stewards.
“I'm grateful to the Kentucky state racing commission for, I think, getting it right,” he said. “It's been a tough time for Sarah and I. I have been very appreciative of the support from the racing community. It's been overwhelming. My owners have been tremendous. They have backed me 100 percent; I haven't lost a person or had anybody waver.
“I have no hard feelings for these stewards because they have a tough job to do daily and I think all they were doing was doing their job. What I do think is the system needs to be fixed. It's broke. Before a person's reputation can be tarnished and their livelihood put in jeopardy, we have to be sure of what we're doing. We have to do a better job.”
Chauncey Morris, executive director for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, echoed Arnold's conclusions about the commission's decision on behalf of KTA/KTOB members.
“We have every confidence in this commission and view a cluster of these findings between two separate trainers within five days as abnormal,” said Morris.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated it was the commission which rescinded the ractopamine rulings. In reality, the commission received information which was passed on to the board of stewards, who rescinded their ruling from January. Those rulings were posted publicly on Feb. 16.
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