Racing officials are pleased that test results from the Rainbow trials in July came up clean. Other therapeutic substances – which are allowed – showed improperly high levels in a few horses, but no other “hot” results were present. No illegal substances such as the serious Category A drugs which led to the accusations in May were detected.
The overall clean nature of the tests gave Vince Mares, agency director for the New Mexico Racing Commission, a reason to smile.
“There are still plenty of honest owners and trainers out there trying to do the right thing,” Mares said. “But there is also a handful that are willing to do anything which would put that horse or jockey at risk, for the simple reason to make more money. We have to focus on the cheaters that would do that.”
RD Hubbard, owner of Ruidoso Downs racetrack applauded the results. “We fully support the efforts of Mr. Mares and the NM Racing Commission to clean up horseracing. It’s evident that trainers and owners are taking note of the stepped up testing procedures,” Hubbard said.
Currently, the commission is focused on Chapter 11 of the racing rules, which addresses what medications are allowed, and what levels are determined acceptable. Further steps to strengthen penalties are also in the future, according to Mares.
He said the overall feeling on the backside at Ruidoso Downs was positive.
“Some people came up to me to specifically thank me and the commission for what we’re doing,” Mares said. “I still got some dirty looks, but you have to remember there are still those out there who want to keep cheating. The honest people are appreciative of what we’re doing.”
Mares was at Ruidoso Downs Racetrack during Thursday’s AA Futurity trials, and said there is some frustration over the pace with which the investigation is being conducted, but he said the commission would rather be deliberate and correct rather than speedy and sloppy.
“These horsemen have a right to due process, and it’s a second opinion they’re getting from their veterinarians,” Mares said. “I want to move it along, but the wheels of justice move slowly. Once we get those results back, we can move forward, and they could still appeal to the commission.”
Mares said the current wait for test results is only part of the overall effort to clean up horse racing in the state, and that the results of the extra scrutiny and diligence are already starting to manifest themselves.
Hubbard supports the NM Racing Commission’s due process when it comes to penalties. ”Although a lot of people are frustrated and don’t understand why penalties have not been levied since it’s now almost the end of the meet and the violations occurred at the end of May, I support the punishment being executed correctly with the proper due diligence by the racing commission,” Hubbard said.
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.
Hubbard has been asked by several people why the track doesn’t do more to enforce regulations. “It’s not the racetrack’s responsibility or authority to impose penalties and fines, which are procured by the state racing commission. However, track owners do reserve the right to and have the ability to ban trainers, especially if they have been banned by other tracks,” Hubbard said.
The task might be a large one, but Mares said he and the commission are committed.
“As long as it takes, that’s how long we’ll work to clean it up,” Mares said. “We know we have a lot of work to do, and there are those out there that want to fight it. But we’re in it for the long haul.
“We won’t rush things,” he added. “If we rush it and do it wrong, then we do no one any good.