New Mexico considers stricter penalties for positive tests

The stakeholders in the New Mexico racing industry are scheduled to come together this summer at either Ruidoso Downs or The Downs at Albuquerque to discuss a host of different topics, including a proposal that would suspend horses who test positive for certain substances. The date of the meeting is still being determined, said Izzy Trejo, the new executive director of the New Mexico Racing Commission.

"It's going to bring all the issues to the table to sort them out," said Trejo, adding that the summit idea was brought forward by the management of Sunland Park.

One topic on the table is a proposal to suspend a horse from competition for 60 days if he tests positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 drug or any anabolic steroid. The horse would be placed on the stewards' list for that period and, if he tests positive again after that time, could face another 60-day suspension.

"We're still working on the verbiage," said Trejo. "We want to start penalizing the horse because right now, trainers are getting caught with the positive and they get booted out of racing, and the owners just go on and find another trainer. We think this can get the owners' attention because the horse will have to sit at the farm or the stall for a few months. We're hoping to get people's attention."

The commission already has one policy in place in which violators could have horses suspended from racing. The panel began out-of-competition drug testing in April, and if a horse is not produced for testing, the horse can be suspended from racing for up to 120 days and the trainer for up to 180 days. The new program calls for about 40 horses per week to randomly have blood drawn at the current meet at SunRay Park. The first round of tests all came back clean, said Trejo. There also is testing at the current meet at Ruidoso.

In other topics for the summit, race dates will be discussed, said Trejo. Sunland had requested an all-Thoroughbred meet for next season but withdrew that application at a recent meeting. Sunland is in discussions with horsemen's groups on the matter, said Trejo.

Other discussions will concern streamlining the adjudication process, said Trejo.