By Dan Ross
The Ron McAnally trained Roses and Candy has tested positive for 7-Carboxy-Cannabidiol, a metabolite of cannabidiol, after a win at Del Mar on Nov. 22 last year, according to a complaint filed by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) Monday.
Because CBD is currently unclassified in California, a positive finding is by default a class 1, category A drug violation, requiring that the horse is disqualified and purse monies forfeited. Under CHRB rules, such a violation can also lead to a minimum one-year suspension or a maximum three-year suspension, with a maximum fine of $25,000 or 25% of the purse.
However, according to CHRB spokesperson Mike Marten, agency staff will recommend to the stewards that they treat the positive as a lower class 3 category B penalty. That's because the CHRB is in the process of making CBD a class 3, category B drug through a proposed rulemaking change.
A class 3 substance potentially requires the disqualification of the horse and the redistribution of the purse, along with a fine of no more than $10,000 and a minimum 30-day suspension for the first offense, absent mitigating circumstances.
According to McAnally's long-time assistant, Dan Landers, the finding is potentially a result of cross-contamination. When details of the positive emerged last year, Roses and Candy's jockey, Geovanni Franco, approached him to explain that he used CBD himself, Landers said.
“He came to me and he told me he'd used it on himself,” said Landers. “My best advice for him was to tell the investigator what he'd told me, which he did.”
Landers added: “We went upside down trying to find where this came from, and [Franco] was the only source that did say they'd used it, and that says a lot about him–he's an honest guy. I appreciated his honesty on that. He didn't have to say anything.”
Marten also pointed to the veteran trainer's fine regulatory record in California.
“McAnally has never had anything worse in his whole career than a class 4” drug positive in California, said Marten.
According to Landers, the barn's last positive in California was in 1996.
In 1994, McAnally was among five trainers whose horses tested positive for scopolamine. After a lengthy investigation, his fine was overturned, but the horse in question was disqualified and the purse money rescinded.
As CBD use in humans has sky-rocketed in recent years, the eyes of the regulatory world have turned to the inevitable spill-over into equine competition. Last December, the CHRB sent a notification to California-based trainers warning them of CDB use in horses and the possible consequences.
“My recommendation to the horsemen is do not use this product on a racehorse that is going to be subject to testing, which is basically all of them,” CHRB equine medical director Rick Arthur told the TDN at the time. “The risk is so out of proportion to the reward that it would be foolish to use this product on a racehorse.”
While derived from both marijuana and industrial hemp plants, CBD is non-intoxicating. Nevertheless, while CBD products are required to contain less than 0.3% THC, lack of regulatory oversight means that some CBD products contain much more THC than that. The ARCI designates a CBD product with more than 0.3% THC as a class 1, category A substance.
The purported benefits from CBD use in horses include treatment of inflammation, ulcers, laminitis, colic, and decreased anxiety. However, “None of these claims are substantiated with independent, peer reviewed research in the horse,” according to a Racing Medication & Testing Consortium (RMTC) cannabidiol bulletin from 2019.
Among some of the findings in published literature, CBD has been shown to help ameliorate the pain of osteoarthritis in dogs and ease anxiety in humans. One recent study out of Colorado found a potential correlation between CBD use in dogs and reduced seizure frequency.
Experts point to the wild west nature of the CBD market at present, however, with much variability in purity, strength, and safety of these products. A recent study out of Europe found that more than two-thirds of the 14 CBD products tested contained concentrations that differed by more than 10% from the label. As such, in its 2019 bulletin the RMTC offers no recommended withdrawal times.
McAnally, owner Deborah McAnally and Franco are scheduled to appear before the stewards at Santa Anita on May 22.