The Week in Review: HISA Needs to Expand Oversight to Include 2-Year-Old Sales

Sarah Andrew


The team at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company does everything it can to run a clean sale. Under OBS's conditions of sale, no medication may be administered within 24 hours of a horse's under-tack performance, 10 to 15% of the horses who are going to sell are tested, and in 2019, OBS prohibited the use of bronchodilators like Clenbuterol at all of its sales.

It may not be enough.

The Jeffrey Englehart story has suggested that may be the case. Englehart bought a Classic Empire colt at the OBS auction last year on June 15. Some five months later the horse, which was unraced and unnamed, broke down while working at Finger Lakes and had to be euthanized. In such a case, the deceased horse is tested by the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU), an arm of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA). The horse, identified as Fast Heart 2021 (the dam is Fast Heart and the horse was born in 2021), tested positive for Clenbuterol.

Englehart, facing a possible suspension of up to two years, was adamant that he never gave the horse the drug and speculated that Fast Heart 2021 was given Clenbuterol leading up to the sale in hopes that it would help the horse to work faster and sell for more. Last week, HIWU cleared Englehart after the results of a segmented hair test showed that the Clenbuterol was in fact given to the horse prior to Englehart taking possession.

The colt was purchased for $4,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October Yearling Sale Oct. 26, 2022. The purchaser was Juan Centeno, who entered the horse back in the Ocala sale. Centeno sells under the name of All Dreams Equine. Since the story broke, Centeno has not responded to attempts made by the TDN to get his side of the story.

Englehart bought two horses from Centeno's consignment. On his own, Englehart said he paid to have a segmented hair test done on the other horse, a filly named She She's Shadow (Bucchero). According to Englehart, that horse also tested positive for Clenbuterol.

Englehart charged that Clenbuterol use is “rampant” at 2-year-old sales.

That may or may not be the case, but if a PED can result in a horse working just a fraction of a second faster than it would have without drugs, it could be a powerful incentive to cheat; one that can means tens of thousands of dollars to the seller.

Still another problem revolves around the use of  bisphosphonates, a controversial group of drugs used in older horses to tackle issues like navicular disease, but also used in younger horses to improve bone mass. Once administered, they can stay in a horse's system for years, which could mean a horse given bisphosphonates before a sale could turn up positive long after it was purchased and the current trainer would be vulnerable to suspensions and fines.

HISA and HIWU were created eliminate doping and abuse in Thoroughbred racing, which nearly everyone admits is a problem. Cheating isn't necessarily limited to the racetrack, but that is where HISA focuses almost all of its efforts. Horses aren't subjected to HISA rules and HIWU drug testing until they have had their first officially timed and published workout. That's when they become “covered” horses. As long as they don't own or train any active racehorses, 2-year-old consignors also will not be “covered” or subject to HISA/HIWU oversight and regulations.

The Englehart saga is evidence that this is a problem that needs to be rectified. That hasn't been lost on HISA.

As reported by the Paulick Report, Ann McGovern, who oversees the HISA Racetrack Safety Program, gave a presentation in June at the Track Superintendent Field Day held at Horseshoe Indianapolis. When asked about the issue of HISA having no jurisdiction over 2-year-old sales, McGovern said that in her own opinion, “It's a place that needs regulation, absolutely.”

In September, colleague T.D. Thornton wrote that HISA had initiated discussions with sales companies in an attempt to bring about voluntary compliance with medication rules and regulations.

HISA and its CEO Lisa Lazarus have plenty on their plates and making changes to what is already a complicated set of protocols and regulations is not something that can be done easily. But HISA is doing an incomplete job if it ignores such an important part off the sport as 2-year-old sales or, for that matter, all sales. At the very least, a horse should become a covered horse as soon as they turn two.

If HISA were in charge of policing the June OBS sale would the Fast Heart 2021 story have turned out any differently? That's hard to say. But with HISA staying away from sales, it stands to reason that the would-be cheaters have less to worry about if they try to beat the system.

If HISA is going to clean up racing, clean up all of racing. Huge money is involved when it comes to 2-year-old sales and getting a horse to work as fast as it can is the primary goal of many consignors. Hopefully, very few will use performance-enhancing drugs on horses about to be sold as 2-year-olds, but the incentive to do so is obviously there. HISA needs to take on a larger role that includes 2-year-old sales.

A Banner Day for the Coach

It wasn't a perfect afternoon Saturday at Oaklawn for Wayne Lukas, whose best 3-year-old colt, Just Steel (Justify), was a disappointing seventh in the GII Rebel S., dimming Lukas's hopes of winning his first GI Kentucky Derby in 25 years. But the Hall of Famer still did plenty right on Saturday. He now has a contender for the GI Kentucky Oaks after Lemon Muffin (Collected) upset the GIII Honeybee S. at odds of 28-1.

The filly was only in the race because Lukas continues to take chances that most modern-day trainers won't. Not only was Lemon Muffin still a maiden after five starts, she had never gone beyond six furlongs. But Lukas went into the race brimming with confidence.

“Watch out here,” Lukas said prior to the race. “This one has some ability. Running her in the Honeybee is not the big, giant step some might think. She is just dying to go two turns. She's got a lot of ability and is a competitive, hard-trying filly. This isn't the big step forward you might think from looking at her on paper.”

On the same card, Lukas won an allowance race with Seize the Grey (Arrogate) and finished second in the Carousel S. with Backyard Money (Midshipman)

The ever-optimistic Lukas predicts that he is going to have a big year, in large part because of the horses being funneled his way by John Bellinger and Brian Coelho, who race under the name of BC Stables LLC.

“[Bellinger and Coelho] have a beautiful set of 2-year-olds that are being prepped right now,” Lukas said. “It's an extremely good set. They've got Gun Runners, Justifys, Into Mischiefs, Quality Roads. I am going to go out on a limb and say this is my best set of 2-year-olds in years and years. We should have a helluva Saratoga. I'm getting great reviews out of Ocala on those 2-year-olds.”

No Excuses For White Abarrio

White Abbario (Race Day) threw in an absolute clunker when finishing 10th in Saturday's G1 Saudi Cup. According to co-owner Mark Cornett, the horse came out of the race fine and no one has come up with an explanation as to why he didn't fire.

“He came out of the race perfectly,” Cornett said. “He cooled out in 10 minutes and wasn't blowing, wasn't doing anything. It was like he never ran.”

The owners were contemplating a start in the G1 Dubai World Cup, but that's no longer in their plans. White Abarrio will be shipped home Feb. 29.

“We'll give him some time off, but not too much because he didn't even run,” Cornett said. “We're going to come home and re-group. We don't know yet where he's going to run. Our big goal for the summer will probably be the Whitney again. How we get there, I don't know yet. Probably we could have him ready for the Met Mile. The only thing about that is it's going to be run at Saratoga, so it's going to be a little bit different race.  They run the mile races there out of the [Wilson] chute and I'm not a fan of that.”

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