By T. D. Thornton
One month after initially stating at a Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission (PHRC) meeting that May backstretch raids at Parx yielded a “significant amount of contraband” and “items that have no business on the backside,” Tom Chuckas, the director of Thoroughbred horse racing for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, gave a Tuesday update that now describes the yield from those searches in markedly less sensationalistic terms.
“In the last months, enforcement action was taken both at Penn National and at Parx,” Chuckas told commissioners at the June 29 PHRC meeting during his monthly briefing. “That enforcement action consisted of…vehicle searches, barn searches, vet trailer searches. In addition, we did out-of-competition testing both at Penn National and at Parx, and the preliminary results from these investigative enforcement actions is very, very minor infractions. Nothing of substance.”
Yet according to a June 2 ruling posted on the PHRC website, the May 21 raid did allegedly turn up “21 loaded hypodermic needles and hypodermic syringes” in the locked tack room of Parx trainer Richard Vega. TDN first reported that development on June 2.
Vega is currently appealing a summary suspension issued for that infraction by Parx stewards. He was denied a request for a stay that would have allowed him to keep training until his hearing date, and has not started a horse since May 19.
Chuckas–who gave his entire monthly Thoroughbred investigatory report in just 50 seconds–said nothing about Vega's aspect of the case. But he did add that the commission's enforcement branch will have a more active racetrack presence now that pandemic protocols have eased.
“We will continue to conduct enforcement actions moving forward now that COVID's over and most of our staff's been vaccinated,” Chuckas said.