Trainer Lynch takes responsibility for failed drug test

ELMONT, N.Y. -- One day after surrendering his license for failing a drug test, trainer Brian Lynch took responsibility for his actions, offered apologies to his owners and staff, and vowed that it will never happen again.

Earlier this week, Lynch failed a drug test administered by the New York State Gaming Commission. Lynch admitted to having smoked a "vapor stick" that contained THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, a chemical associated with marijuana. Lynch said he is not a regular user of marijuana.

On Wednesday, after meeting with the gaming commission, Lynch surrendered his license. He was given 48 hours by the gaming commission to get his affairs in order, which, in part, meant notifying his owners of his situation and giving them the chance to place their horses with other trainers. Royal Squeeze, who made his last start for Lynch, was entered for Saturday's Grade 3 Jaipur with trainer David Cannizzo. That horse's owner, Newtownanner Stud Farm, has horses with Cannizzo.

Starting Friday, Lynch's New York stable will be taken over by his Woodbine assistant, Erin Cotterill, and horses will run in her name.

Lynch said he has 36 horses at Belmont, 20 at Saratoga, and 15 at Woodbine.

As the results of the test came back after Private Zone was entered on Sunday for Friday's Grade 2, $250,000 True North at Belmont Park, that horse was scratched by the stewards because Lynch, the trainer of record at time of entry, would no longer be a licensed trainer on race day.

Private Zone is owned by Good Friend Stable, a partnership put together by the retired jockey Rene Douglas.

"I'd love to come with a big crybaby story, but that isn't me," Lynch said Thursday in his tack room at Belmont Park. "The only way I can correct it is to make sure it doesn't happen again. My apologies go out to my owners and my staff, and my heartfelt apologies go out to the connections of Private Zone; the stable name certainly exemplifies who they are."

On Wednesday, Douglas said he would keep Private Zone with Lynch and said the horse, who has not raced since November, would be pointed to the Grade 2, $250,000 Smile Sprint at Gulfstream Park on July 2.

Lynch said he is required to undergo outpatient drug counseling and said he would be eligible to get a conditional license once he passes a test given by the gaming commission.

"The fact I wasn't an everyday user, I think I can flush pretty quick," Lynch said. "I'm going to get a conditional license when I come back, and I'm all for that. The only thing I can offer my owners is reassurance it'll never happen again."

It is unclear when Lynch will be tested again. Lee Park, a spokesman for the gaming commission, on Thursday declined to comment on any aspect of the Lynch matter.

Lynch was enjoying a solid start to the year, with 26 wins from 116 starters and $1,325,808 in purse earnings. His top horses include the graded stakes winners Grand Arch, Heart to Heart, and Lightstream, the latter a 3-year-old filly who is 3 for 3 and pointing to the Grade 1 Mother Goose on July 2. Grand Arch was being pointed to the Grade 3 Poker on June 18, while Heart to Heart, after finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita last weekend, is being turned out.

Lynch said he looks forward to putting this incident behind him and moving forward.

"I'm a big boy, I'm a thick-skinned guy. I'll get through this," he said. "I've got a great staff, and we'll track on."

-- additional reporting by Mike Welsch