Smith’s Oaklawn Stable Grounded By High Cobalt Tests

by | 03.12.2015 | 1:52pm
Trainer Kenny Smith

While Indiana is the only American racing jurisdiction to adopt rules regulating cobalt levels in Thoroughbreds, stewards at Oaklawn Park have put all of the horses from trainer Kenny Smith's racing stable on the vet's list after four runners from his barn tested for elevated levels of the substance that many believe has blood doping properties.

Smith, with the second-highest number of starters during the current meet, has not had a runner since March 1. He has won seven races from 66 starts at Oaklawn this year.

Oaklawn, which contracts with Truesdail Laboratories in Tustin, Calif., began random testing for cobalt this year.

“It's not a test of every sample, but once or twice a week we are testing winners or several other horses,” said state steward Stan Bowker. “Of all that we've tested, and we are probably close to 100, the norm (for cobalt) is between two and six parts per billion, which is very much in line with what other jurisdictions have seen. If any horses tests over 10 – between 10 and 25 parts per billion – we call in the trainer and give them a heads-up that their cobalt is high and they need to check with their vet or review their feed program or supplements. It's a courtesy call.”

Bowker said two horses from Smith's barn initially tested over 100, followed by two more at 100-plus parts per billion.

“We asked Kenny not to enter any more horses until all the horses in his barn have been tested and they are under 25, including the four that were over 100,” Bowker said. “The whole barn was put on the vet's list.

“There is no penalty involved because we don't have a specific rule,” Bowker added, adding that the Arkansas Racing Commission is awaiting recommendations from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and a model rule from the Association of Racing Commissioners International. “But we feel doing this is in the interest of fairness to all the horses, because everyone else has been able to keep their cobalt at a reasonable and acceptable level.”

Bowker said Smith had no explanation for the extreme levels.

“He had two different vets,” Bowker said, “and both are now working with him to look at everything they are doing to make sure there is no problem. Both of the vets have 20 to 30 clients here and they haven't had problems with any of those clients.”

Trainers and veterinarians were notified prior to the start of the 2015 Oaklawn Park meeting that cobalt levels would be tested.

“This is the first year Arkansas has had the national uniform medication rules, so we went over all the thresholds, withdrawal times and recommended dosage for therapeutic medications,” Bowker said. “We have not had one positive during the meet like we had in Indiana this year (where Bowker also works as a steward). At the same time we went through those rules, we also told them about the cobalt testing.”

Indiana enacted emergency regulations on cobalt last year, setting the threshold at 25 parts per billion after covert testing showed likely random abuse in Thoroughbred, Quarter horse and Standardbred racing. Since those regulations were put in place, overages for cobalt have been rare.

Bowker said it is up to Smith when the stable will be re-tested for cobalt.

A third-generation horseman born in Oklahoma, Smith, 61, has 995 career wins from 6,250 starts. He is best known as trainer of multiple graded stakes winner and millionaire Silver Goblin.

  • Ben van den Brink

    Tinky, one of your favorite subjects. The cobalt I mean.

    • The Tinky-Brinky debate continues.

      • Ben van den Brink

        Yep, as long as horses, the centre of the buisiness, are involved, and the bettors ( not me) are ripped off.

    • gls

      Every Racing Commission needs to grow a pair!!!

  • Peyton

    Nice to see Arkansas Stewards providing this information to the Paulick Report. Some much needed transparency. Did you have to search this out Ray or did they come to you?

  • That’s a Happy Face.

  • Ron

    Did they name the 4 horses?

  • Ian Howard

    This is the equine equivalent of being a little bit pregnant.

  • bugweed

    And of course, the “innocent owners”, know nothing at all about this, nothing, nada, zip.

    I also have for sale: 1 Bridge, located between Brooklyn and NY County, great location, in good, but well used condition. Call for price.

    • Dee R. Eff

      Why do you think it so obvious that the owner would know. The owner is usually the last to know anything.

      • AngelaInAbilene

        Au contraire mi amigo. Owners talk and they hear things and then they get ideas and then they tell the trainer “lets try this.” Been there, done that {that’s why I only run my own now} currently watching ‘friends’ do the same thing to their trainers and pulling their horses when their smart trainers refuse.

        • Dee R. Eff

          I hear you and understand, but I think that might be a percentage thing of some do and some don’t, and depend on your personal experience. I was more involved than most owners, and early on it was quite a learning curve about some of the things on the backstretch. Believe me, I’ve known plenty of owners that want to be in the sport and have no clue what goes on. The thing I take exception to is that you can’t assume that it’s so obvious that the owner would know, when many times they don’t which was the statement of poster.

          • You are correct about that. I think the vast majority of owners have absolutely no clue about this. I think there is a minority of owners that suspect a trainer cheats and these owners gravitate to those trainers in hopes of getting in on the action. And a very tiny minority of owners are actually involved as enablers to obtain performance enhancing drugs. It is this small minority that needs to be found, prosecuted and drummed out of racing because they are killing the sport for those that play by the rules.

          • Gaye Goodwin

            That really needs to happen.

          • togahombre

            I’m not disputing what your saying but if they would put the offending horse on the vet list for more than 60 days I’d bet the owners would make it their business to know

          • AngelaFromAbilene

            Dang, I had a great response all typed out and I don’t know what I did but I disappeared it!

            Suffice it to say, I’ve seen it all over the years. I’m not saying all owners are like that anymore than I would call an overage “cheating.” I always explained the how’s and why’s of everything I done. Some listened and some merely heard. I wish I’d had more owners like you and less like I had.

      • Concerned Observer

        What the owner should know is that if the trainer is penalized the owner is penalized too. That would put the onus on the owners to 1) hire trainers with clean records and 2) tell the trainer straight-up ” you get one violation and I will pull all my horses! The owners can and should put pressure on the trainers, but without owner penalties they have no reason to do so.

    • youcantmakeitup

      Kenny Smith trains for Dream Walkin stables owned by Toby Keith( c&w singer). And he trains for others too.

      • AngelaInAbilene

        Are you suggesting Toby Keith Covel is not aware of what his trainers do? Because if you are, you should definitely invest in that bridge.

    • gls

      The owners probably didn’t know, BUT THEY KNOW NOW. This stuff is harmful to the horses at those levels and it constitutes cheating. If you will cheat one way you will cheat anyway you can. They should get a trainer.

    • Steve H.

      bugweed, have you ever owned a race horse? I doubt it. Please don’t spew your mouth off about things you know nothing about. The likelihood that the owner knew anything about this is extremely low.

    • Yet another anonymous poster with all the answers.

    • Flag Is Up

      I suppose you are not familiar with the old saying: Treat owners like mushrooms, keep them in the dark and feed them lots of $hit. Few owners truly know what’s being fed or injected into their horse, worse yet is few owners care.

  • Dee R. Eff

    Nicely done in every way Oaklawn.

  • Tinky

    “many believe”?

    I’m nitpicking, perhaps, but Ray, can you name a credible source that claims otherwise?

  • As long as horses race, new drugs and new ways to employ these drugs to tilt the playing field are going to come down the pike. What baffles me is why each racing jurisdiction does not have a rule on the books that reads something like this: “If a substance is found in the system of a horse that is deemed to be performance enhancing, that horse, his owner and his trainer are subject to disqualification, regardless of whether that drug has been officially designated as being performance enhancing.” Crooks are always going to be ahead of the curve, so why should they be given a pass or the benefit of the doubt on the use of an illegal product just because the regulators have not had enough time to identify or create a rule to deal with that substance? This is the main reason that freezing samples is such an important concept. The good guys needs protection from those horsemen and owners that are always ahead of the curve when it comes to cheating with new products. Can we not be smart and proactive for a change, instead of merely victims of wise guys?

    • Needles

      And they need to do routine walk throughs and examine the tack rooms and barn areas more and other than when they just get tipped to something. a lot of times cheating happens with supplements that are oral because commissions are only worried about bottles and needles.

    • Mike Hummel

      The proposed rule is a good idea, but to this attorney, it’s vague and overbroad. “Performance enhancing” and “drug” are the problems. First, a drug is “a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body”, according to Merriam-Webster. But think about it – doesn’t food meet the same definition? Is that vitamin-enriched feed just food or is it a drug? Second, “performance enhancing” is self-explanatory, but isn’t everything you introduce into a racing animal’s body performance enhancing in the strictest sense? I’m no genius, but I think I could convince a court of competent jurisdiction that these words are so broad as to have no real meaning.

      • David

        Another problem with our society!!!

      • Concerned Observer

        I disagree. The law can be written to give officials the right to declare horses ineligible when any substance is found that is outside a range of normal.

        If it reduces cheating by 50% it is a darned good start.

        • Ben van den Brink

          Why not enforcing the FEI rules, just like the rest of the world does.????

        • Mike Walker

          drug or substance? minerals?

      • Concerned Observer

        One more point. A law should be written and the enforcement structured to encourage or force broad compliance without resorting to arrest and court.

        People overlook the positive side of compliance without the need for arrest or trial.

        Example: even though there were 30,000 homicides in the USA last year, based upon our population, compliance with the laws against homicide was 99.999%.

        Today, what is the penalty for trying unregulated new drugs in racing?

      • HorsePower Racing

        a smart guy like you could re-write Barry’s suggestion for a couple thousand an hour ?

    • OopsyDaisy3

      No truer words spoken Mr. Irwin. Where there is weakness the weak will find a way to outsmart the competition. It is the same in all walks of life, sports and competition where money is involved. Obviously Smith is consistent in administering something that is over the allowable cobalt levels. I guess Oaklawn does not test the feed. Then comes Mike Hummel’s response to Mr. Irwin’s, Hummel an admitted attorney. And we all know how they can call a spade a heart or a diamond a rock! So the weak keep on til they finally get caught. I guess Mr. Smith should hire Mr. Hummel. And the beat goes on.
      And good for the Arkansas Stewards to act on what they found to be wrong.
      Linda in Texas

      • HorsePower Racing

        YEP that’s it…..must be the feed !!!!!

        • OopsyDaisy3

          Surely you knew i was being facetious about the feed! Linda

    • c. biscuit

      excellento mi amigo! especially the part about hitting the owner where it hurts!

    • betterthannothing

      “As long as horses race, new drugs and new ways to employ these drugs to tilt the playing field are going to come down the pike.”

      “Crooks are always going to be ahead of the curve, so why should they be given a pass or the benefit of the doubt on the use of an illegal product just because the regulators have not had enough time to identify or create a rule to deal with that substance?”

      “Can we not be smart and proactive for a change, instead of merely victims of wise guys?”

      It would be far more humane, efficient and fair to PREVENT undesirable and dangerous performance enabling and enhancing substances from reaching race horses instead of endlessly chasing the bad guys and trying to nail them after the fact.

  • Elliott ness

    Mr. Kenny looks like he may have inadvertently ingested or transdermally absorbed a cc or 2 of cobalt, he is red, like what niacin will do to one if overdosing. It’s all laughable. Rules, you kidding me, in the mountains of Arkansas, dream on. The real truth will never surface.

  • Gate To Wire

    Let’s hope they test all the horses racing in Rebel, Azeri and Razorback for cobalt. Would love to see the actual levels posted for each horse. Maybe some late scratches for spiking a fever coming today!!

    • JBC

      Excellent idea to include the Rebel Stakes and specifically AMERICAN PHAROAH.

  • Peyton

    Well, I was having a pretty good round until I landed in that Cobalt trap on number 7 and had to blast out to try and save double bogey.

  • Elliott ness

    What is so stupid about this, is why is the guy suspended if there is no rule in place against it. It’s absolutely stupid. It’s like the people running these racetracks grew up in a house loaded with lead paint. Whaaaaaat, we asked Kenny , dear Kenny don’t run no more horses, ok Kenny see you in the track kitchen. It’s so absurd. Throw him and his entire barn of horses off the grounds. For the love of money!

    • Peyton

      Now. Now. You just don’t realize. We are not to mistreat the horsemen or the track operators. Our job as stewards for the people is to foster a parterning relationship with the horsemen and track owners. This allows things to sail along without calling attention to any problems. In the south, we do not air our dirty laundry. It is unseemly. After all, who would come visit a house where there are stained underwear hanging on the back clothes line? As far as I can cypher, there is no penalty for a horse caught using Lasix that is listed in the program as not using Lasix. ‘We just don’t cover that type situation.’ the stewards were overheard rationalizing to each other.

  • Mike Walker

    so does a horse with large lungs and heart have an unfair advantage?, they use oxygen much more efficiently is that as un unfair advantage, maybe they should have to carry more weight?
    I’m not joking in the old days they added weight to exceptional horses so the handicapper’s would still bet, but now days no one carries weight is that fair?

  • Anthony

    Owners get vet bills. No medication of any kind. Period. Only way to solve the problem. Good feed, exercise,hay and water. Even playing field/

  • Lynne Magee

    When you own a horse or many horses you are responsible. Make owners sign an agreement of responsibility. These are living, breathing animals not race cars!

  • HorsePower Racing

    Amen Barry you are SPOT ON – lets do something to protect the guys and gals playing by the rules for a change before we are all gone

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