One NM track cracks down on drugging horses, at least one more may follow UPDATE: ABQ Downs joins in
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After a season marred by accusations that some trainers drugged horses to deadly levels, one quarter horse track in New Mexico says it will institute harsher fines and penalties and another track may soon follow suit.
“I think it’s great,” New Mexico Racing Commission Director Vince Mares told Capitol Report New Mexico on Monday (Sept. 4) after the owner of Ruidoso Downs, R.D. Hubbard, announced that starting next season, his track will revoke the stalls privileges for any trainer whose horses test positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 drug as well as getting banned from the track and have their right to enter horses in races suspended.
”The sign is out that drug offenders are not welcome at Ruidoso Downs Race Track and in New Mexico,” Hubbard said in a statement published by Associated Press on Tuesday, the day after the quarter horse season ended with the All American Futurity, the richest race in the sport, run at Ruidoso Downs.
And Mares told Capitol Report New Mexico that the Downs at Albuquerque “is working on something similar” to Ruidoso’s crack down on rogue trainers and owners.
UPDATE 8:56 p.m.: On Monday evening, the president at the Downs at Albuquerque announced its own harsher penalties against those suspected of drugging race horses. From a news release:
Under the new policy, following aninitial positive test for doping conducted by the New Mexico Racing Commission, the trainer will have their privilege to participate in any racing at the Downs at Albuquerque suspended. If the trainer is ultimately found to have violated state racing regulations for banned drugs, the trainer will be permanently barred.
[Track president William] Windham said, “I welcome the steps the state Racing Commission is taking to institute tougher sanctions for those who choose to cheat. We believe this new policy will send a message that the tracks will not tolerate those who are willing to risk harm to the jockeys, the horses, and the reputation of the sport.”
Mr. Windham went on to say, “The vast majority in the industry respect horse racing and play by the rules. We will continue to work to uphold the traditions that have allowed this sport to endure.” The new policy is effective immediately and applies to all pending cases.
“The tracks are stepping up and said, ‘we’ll back up the Racing Commission,’ ” Mares said, referring to recent efforts by the state agency to clean up the sport.
Since individual tracks are private entities, they can pass more restrictive rules than the Racing Commission can.
It’s been a rough — and deadly — season for horse racing in the state. Back in March, the New York Times ran a long exposé, citing statistics the newspaper compiled calling New Mexico the worst offender in the country in the US when it comes to horses breaking down.
The New Mexico racing industry and the Racing Commission disputed how the stats were put together but there’s nearly unanimous agreement within the state that the industry has a real problem on its hands.
Then in June, allegations of trainers using a powerful painkilling drug called dermorphin on race horses surfaced, and then last month, two quarterhorses broke down on the same day and had to be euthanized — including the winner of a qualifying race for the All American Futurity, Jess A Zoomin.
To make matters worse, the trainer of Jess A Zoomin — Jeffrey Heath Reed – had been accused of drugging five horses back in May with dermorphin but by statute, Reed was still able to to train horses in New Mexico while the Racing Commission awaited the results of a second drug test.
Last week, those second tests finally came back from a lab at Texas A&M University and Mares said the results came back positive for dermorphin.
Mares says Reed and three other trainers will have hearings before the state’s board of stewards later this month, which is the first step in a process to determine whether violations occurred and if so, what punishment should be handed out.
In the meantime, Mares says the new rules instituted by Hubbard at Ruidoso are a big step forward: “We’re very appreciative they’ve done this. We can’t do this alone.”
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: All American Futurity, Associated Press, Capitol Report New Mexico, dermorphin, Downs at Albuquerque, Jeffrey Heath Reed, New Mexico Racing Commission, New York Times, RD Hubbard, Ruidoso Downs, Vince Mares