The move is being celebrated by ethical horse owners in the racing industry who have been continually been at a disadvantage with the nationwide problem of horse doping for increased speed and performance. The crackdown began with the season opener on May 25, resulting in positive drug tests on several horses.
“Some might think of these positive tests as a negative or a black eye but this is crucial in making a statement to our fans and horseman that the illegal use of drugs will not be tolerated. We are grateful to the racing commission and the local Horsemen’s Committee for supporting these efforts,” Hubbard said.
Two-time All American Futurity winning trainers Carl Draper and John Bassett and two other well-known trainers, Jeffrey Reed and Carlos Sedillo, are accused of doping their horses with illegal drugs to help win races during the trials for the $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity and the $679,000 Ruidoso Derby at Ruidoso Downs on June 9.
Following the races, the horses tested positive for the banned substances of dermorphin, ractopamine and stanozolol. All the horses ran in either the trials for the futurity or derby. The futurity included approximately 250 horses, which were held May 25. The derby trials were held on May 26.
Testing ordered by track officials
In a bold move to clean up the sport on the local level and preserve the integrity of the futurity and derby series leading to the All American Futurity, Hubbard stated that the testing came as no surprise and was in fact ordered by track officials after following up on rumors that banned substances were introduced to the race barns. “Whenever we get wind of a substance being used, we get our hands on it and send it to a lab to test it and determine whether or not it’s illegal. In this case these were banned substances so we collaborated with the New Mexico Racing Commission to test specifically for these substances. Although I am disappointed by the results everyone needs to abide by the same rules,” Hubbard said.
Currently in grade stakes races and qualifying trials, the winner and one other randomly chosen horse are tested. Hubbard would like to see the winner and at least four randomly chosen horses tested after qualifying races. Turnaround time for test results is typically 5-7 days with re-testing of positive samples taking another 7-8 days.
Citing that horse doping is a national problem, not just New Mexico, Hubbard is looking forward to the racing commission taking a hard line with stiff penalties for offenders.
“The current lab that the NM Racing Commission was using in Iowa doesn’t have the capability to test dermorphin, ractopamine and stanozolol but the U.C. Davis lab in California does, and we have submitted a formal request for the commission to use the lab to maintain the integrity of the sport,” Hubbard said.
Although track owners do not have the authority to impose penalties and fines, which are procured by the state racing commission, track owners do reserve the right to and have the ability ban trainers, especially if they have been banned by other tracks. Hubbard believes that in light of the recent negative exposure of the problems with horse racing in New Mexico, the racing commission is becoming very proactive in establishing a faster process to rule on, disqualify, suspend and even increase the criminal penalties for offenders.
Getting the word out
‘Hot’ horses are not welcome at Ruidoso Downs and General Manager Shaun Hubbard submitted a letter to the New Mexico Racing Commission declaring, “We believe that the industry would benefit from an announcement prior to the races expressing that testing would be done under the highest possible scrutiny so that all horsemen are on notice. In our view, this announcement may well serve as a deterrent ensuring that all horses are competing on equal footing and also protected from unsafe training practices.”
With funding concerns as an obstacle to tougher testing, Governor Martinez is urging policy to locate resources that will enable the racing commission to conduct more stringent testing of racehorses. Meanwhile, Ruidoso Downs is stepping up with the additional costs for the 2012 summer season. General Manager Shaun Hubbard said, “With more than $1.8 million at stake, we have come forward with a funding mechanism to assist with additional testing and recommend one of the foremost testing laboratories in the nation at U.C. Davis in California in an effort to ensure that racing at Ruidoso Downs and in New Mexico is above reproach and no harm comes to any of the equine athletes that race here.”
The Ruidoso Horseman’s Committee approved this procedure to facilitate the use of the best testing available and the letter further concludes that a higher up-front investment in accurate and complete testing procedures will pay ten-fold over time, not only in saved long-term costs, but also in strengthening the integrity and fairness of the sport.