Asmussen Fined, Suspended for Ace Positives from 2018

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Steve Asmussen

By T. D. Thornton

A pair of Steve Asmussen-trained juvenile winners from 2018 have been disqualified by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) for acepromazine positives, and North America’s current second-winningest trainer now faces a total of 90 days in suspensions and $3,500 in fines for the infractions.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Asmussen had not yet appealed the penalties, but he has a 10-day window from the date of the ruling to do so, Marc Guilfoil, the KHRC executive director, told TDN. A voicemail message left for Asmussen asking for his side of the story did not yield a return phone call prior to deadline for this story.

Acepromazine, a tranquilizer, is listed as a Drug/Penalty Class 3B on the Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances list maintained by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI).

According to two KHRC stewards’ rulings dated Nov. 30 and posted to the agency’s website Tuesday morning, Asmussen was suspended 30 days and fined $1,000 after acepromazine metabolites that tested at 76 ng/ml were detected in the urine of 7-10 favorite Thousand Percent (Goldencents), who won the second race, a $50,000 maiden claimer, at Churchill Downs on June 28, 2018.

And on Oct. 25, 2018, when Boldor (Munnings) won his 2-year-old debut at 4-1 in a Keeneland Race Course MSW, his urine tested positive at 17.7 ng/ml for acepromazine metabolites. The KHRC ruling considered this drug positive a second offense, and accordingly upped Asmussen’s penalties for this infraction to 60 days and a $2,500 fine.

But the rulings also explain that Asmussen will have the larger of his two suspensions sliced in half, by means of 30 days being “stayed on the condition that no Class A or Class B medication violation occurs in any racing jurisdiction within 365 days from the date of this ruling.”

In addition, Asmussen will be allowed to serve his two 30-day suspensions concurrently (Dec. 20-Jan. 18). The stewards cited “mitigating circumstances (number of violations in relation to overall record)” for allowing the trainer to serve both suspensions at the same time.

The ARCI’s recommended minimum/maximum penalties for Category B infractions are 15-60 days and $500-$1,000 (for first offenses), and 30-180 days and $1,000-$2,500 (for second offenses).

Both drug-positive winners were disqualified, and the purse money has been ordered redistributed.

Barbara Borden, the chief state steward for the KHRC, told TDN that the relatively long time lags of 17 months and 13 months between the positive test results and the issuance of the rulings were partially attributable to the legal discovery process initiated by an attorney on Asmussen’s behalf. “Sometimes these things just take a long time,” she said.

Asmussen, a 2016 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inductee, is currently second in North American wins (407) and earnings ($26.3 million) for the year.

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