Board rejects Pletcher's appeal

Updated: December 15, 2005, 7:22 PM ET
By Matt Hegarty | Daily Racing Form

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board at a meeting Thursday upheld a 45-day suspension and $3,000 fine for trainer Todd Pletcher based on a positive drug test for one of Pletcher's horses last year.

Pletcher, who is leading the nation in money won and is a top candidate for the Eclipse Award, said on Thursday after the meeting that he planned to appeal the suspension and fine in court. The board's decision on Thursday was a rejection of Pletcher's first appeal.

"At this point, we're planning on appealing," Pletcher said. "We really don't have any idea how the horse came up positive. Other than that, my attorneys have asked me not to comment."

The Pletcher-trained Tales of Glory tested positive for mepivacaine, a local anesthetic that is used as a nerve block, after finishing first in a race at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 14, 2004. Mepivacaine is a Class 2 drug under the Association of Racing Commissioners International classification system. Class 2 drugs have "a high potential to affect performance."

Earlier this year, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. served a 60-day suspension for a mepivacaine positive, also in New York. That positive was found in a horse that raced on April 27, 2003, at Aqueduct.

If Pletcher does not appeal, then his suspension would begin after he receives official documents from the board outlining the board's case, according to Dan Toomey, a spokesman for the board. Toomey said on Thursday that those documents would not be ready for several days.

John Behrendt, Pletcher's lawyer, said on Thursday afternoon that they will not make a final decision on whether to appeal until after receiving the documents from the board.

"It's a little hard to be definitive right now, having not seen their findings and order," Behrendt said. "But [an appeal] is certainly the way we are leaning."

Also at the meeting, the board formally adopted several changes to the state's medication rules. Some of the rules, which were drafted to more closely align New York's medication rules with those of other states, had been passed on an emergency basis six months ago. The rules will go into effect on Jan. 4.

The changes include a rule that will lower the minimum dosage of the diuretic Lasix from five cubic centimeters to three cubic centimeters. Lasix is used by veterinarians to treat bleeding in the lungs. Michael Hoblock, a board member, said that the minimum was lowered because some horses had suffered "negative side effects" from the 5 cc dose.

Also among the changes is a reclassification of the drug ketoprofen, a painkiller that had been allowed to be administered to horses 24 hours before a race. Ketoprofen will now be prohibited from being administered within 48 hours of a race, the board said.

The board on Thursday also received recommendations on new rules that would "strengthen" regulations governing pick-four betting, according to Toomey. The rules will be voted on at the next board meeting in January, Toomey said.