Breeders' Cup Ltd. will ban for one year any trainer whose horse tests positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 drug in a post-race test collected after one of the 14 Breeders' Cup races, scheduled for Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita Park, the organization announced on Monday.
The new rule will provide Breeders' Cup with one more tool to punish cheaters. Perhaps more importantly, the language allows Breeders' Cup to bolster its get-tough image at a time when racing and other sports are being scrutinized for their drug-abuse policies.
Last year, Breeders' Cup passed a similar rule which would allow the organization to ban a trainer for one year if a horse tested positive for a prohibited level of an anabolic steroid in a post-race test. The organization adopted the rule when most racing jurisdictions were putting regulations in place that restricted anabolic steroid use in horse racing.
"The establishment of these new regulations strengthens our number one priority of preserving the integrity of our competition and protecting the welfare of our athletes," said Breeders' Cup president Greg Avioli in a statement.
The Breeders' Cup board approved language incorporating the ban at a meeting on Friday, according to the organization. Also under the rule, any trainer whose horses test positive three times at the Breeders' Cup for a Class 1 or 2 drug will be banned for life from the event.
No horse in the 25-year history of the Breeders' Cup has ever tested positive for a Class 1 or 2 drug. The two categories include opiates, amphetamines, stimulants, depressants, blood-doping substances, and highly powerful painkillers. Under Association of Racing Commissioners International definitions, Class 1 and Class 2 drugs are those drugs that have a high potential to impact performance but have little to no therapeutic value.
In the only drug positive at the Breeders' Cup, Wait a While, third in the Filly and Mare Turf last year at Santa Anita, tested positive for procaine, a class 3 anesthetic. The horse was disqualified, and trainer Todd Pletcher is waiting on a ruling by the stewards on his penalty. The latest hearings in the case were June 27-28, though a penalty will not be issued until October or November, according to Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director of the California Horse Racing Board.
Pletcher has said that Wait a While was administered procaine penicillin 18 days prior to the Breeders' Cup to fight a fever, and that state guidelines on administering the drug allow trainers to use the medication at least 14 days outside of a race.