Horse tests positive for Clenbuterol; Dutrow faces ban in Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Rick Dutrow is in trouble again.
The outspoken trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown is facing a 15-day suspension by Kentucky racing officials after another horse he trains exceeded the allowable limit for a drug that enables horses to breathe easier while exercising.
Two separate drug tests on 8-year-old gelding Salute the Count revealed the horse had twice the allowable limit of Clenbuterol in his system after finishing second in the Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on May 2, said John Veitch, chief state steward of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.
Clenbuterol, considered a Class B drug by the KHRA, is often used by humans who suffer from asthma. The drug, which Veitch said contains some steroidal properties but is not considered a steroid, is sometimes used by trainers because of its ability to increase a horse's lung capacity.
"It's a respiratory enhancer," Veitch said. "It's become quite popular in racing medication because it's used to train on."
The drug is not permitted in racing, but is regulated by the states through the use of a threshold concentration said Scot Waterman, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. Trainers are recommended to avoid giving a dosage to a horse 72-96 hours before heading to the starting gate, though the threshold level varies from state to state.
Dutrow waived his right to a hearing but plans to file a written appeal, which he must do within the next 10 days. There is no timetable on when Dutrow could meet with KHRA executive director Lisa Underwood, Veitch said.
"He will get a stay on his suspension until the appeal is heard," Veitch said.
Dutrow said he sometimes uses the drug in other horses and was previously reprimanded by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for a similar infraction several years ago.
"I really haven't had any problems with it," Dutrow said in a phone interview.
The first positive test was conducted by a lab at Iowa State University. Dutrow requested a second test, which was conducted by a lab at Louisiana State University. That test also came back positive.
Dutrow raced four horses during Churchill Downs' spring meet, the last on May 17. He does not currently have any horses at the track.
As part of the penalty, Salute the Count owners Michael Dubb and Robert Joscelyn must return $24,521 in purse money. On June 15, the horse finished second to First Defence in the Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park. Drug test results from that race are not yet available said Dan Toomey with the New York State Racing & Wagering Board.
The penalty is the first for Dutrow in Kentucky, though hardly the first time he's run into trouble. He spoke openly about his checkered past during Big Brown's run at the Triple Crown. He's been cited dozens of times over the years for everything from repeated medication violations to his own drug use.
Dutrow has been fined or suspended at least once every year since 2000 for doping issues:
• In 2000, a barn search in New York produced "an injectible vitamin which is forbidden."
• In 2001, a horse had excessive Lasix -- an anti-bleeding medication -- in its system.
• In '02, Dutrow "failed to follow Lasix procedures."
• In '03, a horse tested positive for Mepivacaine.
• From '04 through an '08 fine in Florida, there were citations regarding Lasix, Clenbuterol, Phenylbutazone and Oxyphenbutazone.
• Dutrow served a 60-day suspension in 2005 after two of his horses tested positive for banned substances and for a claiming violation.
• Then, in 2007, he served an additional 14-day suspension and was fined $25,000 for violating conditions of his suspension by having contact with his stable.
The news of the possible suspension comes just days after IEAH Stables, co-owner of Big Brown, stepped forward and said it would take all of its horses off steroids entirely and shy away from trainers who continue to use the drugs to maintain their horses.
"If they don't want to play by the rules, then they don't get to train with us," Michael Iavarone, co-president of IEAH, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday.
Iavarone did not return a phone call or an e-mail on Wednesday seeking comment.
IEAH's decision is part of a groundswell of support to rid the sport of steroids. The New York State Legislature passed a measure Tuesday that will give the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association an additional 1 percent of purse money next year. The NYTHA plans to use a portion of the money to purchase state-of-the-art drug testing equipment.
Dutrow is currently competing at Aqueduct while keeping an eye on Big Brown, who has been resting since a shocking last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
Several pictures have surfaced in recent days indicating Big Brown ran almost the entire 1½-mile race with the shoe on his right rear foot dislodged after he collided with Guadacanal shortly after leaving the starting gate.
Iavarone said he believes the shoe problem may have contributed to Big Brown's poor showing in the Belmont, though Dutrow isn't so sure. Big Brown also ran with an acrylic patch on his left front hoof to protect a quarter crack, an injury that kept him off the track for several days leading up to the race.
"I don't know, it's kind of a puzzle to me," Dutrow said. "I just don't get the whole thing. It looks like when you look at the pictures, it could have bothered him, but I should have seen it and the rider [Kent Desormeaux] didn't feel it."
Desormeaux managed to put Big Brown in perfect stalking position on the backstretch, only to ease him as they made the turn because the jockey felt the big bay colt wasn't right. An extensive postrace examination turned up nothing out of the ordinary.
"The pictures don't lie, but neither does the horse," Dutrow said.
Big Brown's next scheduled race is the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Pat Forde was used in this report.