Horsemen's Rep Says Vitali Meth Positive is Environmental Contamination

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Marcus VitaliCoglianese

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In his fight to get out of as one-year suspension after a horse of his tested positive for methamphetamine, controversial trainer Marcus Vitali will have at least one person in his corner. Todd Mostoller, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents horsemen at Penn National and Presque Isle Downs, said that the methamphetamine positive was a result of environmental contamination and that Vital should not have been suspended

“This is somebody who did absolutely nothing wrong,” Mostoller said.

On Friday, the Pennsylvania Racing Commission published its ruling in which Vitali was suspended for one year and fined $10,000 after the horse Single Lady (Shanghai Bobby) tested positive for d-methamphetamine after winning a Aug. 21 maiden special weight race at Presque Isle Downs. Vitali has appealed the suspension.

Mostoller believes the filly came into contact with someone who had been using the drug, and that's how it got into her system.

“The bottom line is that this is environmental contamination,” he said. “There have been a number of methamphetamine positives in Pennsylvania. They've all been at the extremely small picogram level. No one gave methamphetamine to a horse. It's in the environment around us. It's a problem. And our industry has yet to really deal with the problem.”

Mostoller said there have been “three or four” other methamphetamine positives between Presque Isle Downs and Penn National in recent months and that in all other cases the stewards found there were extenuating circumstances and the trainers were not held responsible. The TDN was not able to confirm Mostoller's contention.

In 2017, a Peter Miller-trained horse tested positive for methamphetamine after running in the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup at Penn National. The Pennsylvania Racing Commission ruled that there were “mitigating circumstances” and fined Miller $1,500 but did not suspend him.

In 2016, five horses at Lone Star Park tested positive for meth. The Texas Racing Commission concluded that the horses were contaminated by their handlers and, while the horses were disqualified, the trainers were not penalized

Mostoller hinted that Vitali, who has been in and put of trouble for years, might be treated differently than others.

“This is absurd. It goes beyond common sense,” he said. “Unfortunately for Vitali, he is a hot-button name.”

But Mostoller went on to explain that in the other recent meth cases, it was confirmed that someone handling the horses had used meth. That has not happened with Single Lady.

“In this case, nobody tried to find the source,” he said. “No employees were tested. So, you're certainly not going to find the source of environmental contamination if you don't look for it. This is under appeal and we'll see where it goes from there.”

Single Lady is owned by Carolyn Vogel, 80, who races under the name of Cross Sabres Farm. Prior to Vitali filing for an appeal, Single Lady was placed on the stewards' list for 90 days.  Vogel has been one of Vitali's most loyal owners and has stuck by him despite the trainer's history. She said she has seven horses with him and when asked if she intended to keep them with Vitali she responded, “I will stick by him until further notice.”

When asked what she likes about Vitali, she responded: “He is very good with legs and he is very hands on. He doesn't have too many horses and he is not real expensive. He makes it more affordable and fun.”

Is she concerned about his reputation?

“I don't think he is a cheater,” she said. “He might push the envelope, but he doesn't cheat.”

Vitali is currently racing at Turf Paradise and, due to the appeal, has remained eligible to race there. He has horses entered there on Tuesday and Friday. Both are owned by Vogel.

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