LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Mike Maker, the trainer of the winner of Turfway Park's major Kentucky Derby prep, has been handed a 40-day suspension by Kentucky stewards for a drug positive after a race at Turfway in January, a penalty that Maker said he plans to appeal.
The suspension is scheduled to start April 24, which would prevent Maker from starting Oscar Nominated, who won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway nearly two weeks ago, in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7. By appealing the penalty, Maker can delay the start of the suspension until his appeal is heard, likely well after the Triple Crown is over.
Oscar Nominated, by Kitten's Joy, is owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and Ken Ramsey has said he plans to pay a $200,000 supplemental fee to make the horse eligible for the Derby. DRF's DerbyWatch estimates that Oscar Nominated would be 30-1 in a theoretical 20-horse field for the race.
Maker, reached on Thursday, said he would appeal the penalty whether he had a Derby horse in his barn or not, contending that he does not know how the drug, dextrorphan, found its way into his horse's post-race sample.
"If you don't do the crime, you don't do the time," Maker said.
According to officials, dextrorphan is the metabolite of an ingredient once found commonly in cough medicine, dextromethorphan, and though it is a Class B drug under the Association of Racing Commissioners International list, the substance has not been found in post-race horse samples in recent memory, if at all. Dextromethorphan can act as a cough suppressant and has mildly psychoactive properties, like many similarly structured drugs.
"From what they tell me, it's in cough syrup," said Maker. "I have no clue how it got there. I assume it could be contamination, but I don't know for sure."
The positive was detected in the post-race sample of Harlan's Howling, who won the sixth race at Turfway on Jan. 9. Harlan's Howling was the second choice in the $18,000 maiden special weight race and won by 1-1/4 lengths.
Maker ranked 11th among trainers in North America last year with $7.6 million in earnings. He is regularly a leading trainer on the Kentucky circuit.
Barbara Borden, the Kentucky state steward, said she could not discuss details of the case because of the likelihood that Maker would appeal the penalty.