Asmussen suspended for six months

Updated: July 17, 2009, 5:16 PM ET
By Mary Rampellini | Daily Racing Form



GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- The Lone Star Park board of stewards on Thursday suspended trainer Steve Asmussen six months and fined him $1,500 after one of his horses, Timber Trick, tested positive for a lidocaine metabolite in 2008.

Maggi Moss, an attorney who represents Asmussen, said on Thursday an appeal has been filed with the Texas Racing Commission. Moss said she has also asked the commission for a stay of Asmussen's penalty. Moss said she was disheartened with the ruling Thursday.

"I think as both a lawyer and a horsewoman that I have always believed that the truth through fairness always comes out, she said. "It is clear that everyone who participated or sat through this hearing believes Steve is innocent of this and that therefore makes it very sad for him and for racing in general."

Texas has a zero-tolerance policy on the local anesthetic, which is a Class 2 medication violation. The suspension is scheduled to run from July 20, 2009, to Jan. 15, 2010.

The ruling comes some 14 months after Timber Trick, the filly in question, won a maiden special weight race for owner Gainesway Farm at Lone Star on May 10, 2008. The initial stewards hearing was set for July 18, 2008, but a series of delays ensued until the case culminated with a near eight-hour hearing on July 7, 2009.

Asmussen was granted a continuance on the first hearing date as his legal team sought to obtain a blood sample and additional split sample test data in advance of any hearing before the stewards. They filed a motion to that effect in district court in Austin last summer. The motion came before the court in October, and the judge ultimately ruled she had no jurisdiction in the matter because the case was still pending at the commission level.

Last week, the quest to obtain science in the case resumed at the hearing, with the first part of the two-session hearing opening with Asmussen's legal team of Maggi Moss and Karen Murphy asking for quantitative data on both the original and split test sample, additional split sample test data, and testing of the blood sample from Timber Trick.

The stewards deliberated on arguments presented by both Asmussen's legal team and the commission's attorney, Mark Fenner, and ultimately denied the request. Commission officials said following the hearing that there is no quantitative data on the samples in the case because there are no acceptable levels of lidocaine in Texas. In addition, officials said, urine testing is the only testing the commission requires for the presence of lidocaine and its metabolites.

Asmussen testified afterward and said that he did not administer lidocaine to Timber Trick. He also answered questions about race-day protocol in his stable.

"I know that I didn't do this," he said. "And I strongly believe that you know how important it is to avoid having something like this happen because you do not want to be in this sort of trouble over a 3-year-old maiden when you have access to the Curlins and Rachel Alexandras of the world, which I have. And this sort of trouble jeopardizes that."

Asmussen, 43, was voted the 2008 Eclipse Award as the leading trainer in North America. He trained Curlin, the 2007-08 Horse of the Year, and in 2008 set the record for most wins in a year by a trainer, 622. He currently trains Rachel Alexandra, who upset males in the Preakness Stakes and is a leading contender for 2009 Horse of the Year.