Top Apprentice Maldonado Suspended In Delaware For Opioid Positive

Gabriel Maldonado | Ryan Thompson

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Gabriel Maldonado, currently North America's winningest apprentice jockey with 86 victories, was suspended effective immediately at Delaware Park June 27 after a random drug test by that state's racing commission came back positive and the 25-year-old rookie allegedly admitted to using a prescribed opioid.

Maldonado, 25, had ridden in seven races at Delaware on Wednesday, but was removed from six mounts there Thursday in the wake of the indefinite suspension and a $250 fine being issued that morning by the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission (DTRC).

The ruling stated that after being requested to submit to a random screening by the DTRC on an unspecified date, Maldonado “complied with the request to be drug tested.”

When the test came back positive for an opioid, Maldonado “admitted to using a prescribed opioid,” the ruling stated. The exact type or name of the drug was not disclosed.

The ruling continued: “[P]ursuant to DTRC Rules an individual cannot be under the influence of a controlled substance. [Maldonado] is 'suspended.' He shall submit to a professional evaluation by a substance abuse professional approved by the Commission, [and] must properly follow the prescribed rehabilitation program. The individual must produce a negative drug test at the individual's expense before returning to work.”

Maldonado's agent, Eddie Joe Zambrana, did not want to get into specifics when asked by TDN if Maldonado, who does not speak English as a first language, wanted the opportunity to tell his side of the story.

“I don't really want to talk about it,” Zambrana said. “We'll try to figure out whatever it is. I know my rider is okay. He does things right. Everything is good. For some reason, the stewards decided to take him off the horses, so I don't want to say much.”

Asked if Maldonado planned to appeal the ruling, Zambrana said, “We're working with The Jockeys' Guild to resolve the problem, because they're not supposed to take him off his mounts for [Thursday], anyway, for whatever happened.”

News of the apprentice's suspension arrived on the heels of a breakout week in which Maldonado won 10 races at four different tracks in the mid-Atlantic region, including a four-victory day at Delaware June 20 and wins aboard three consecutive mounts when riding at Monmouth Park June 21 and 23.

Maldonado was just profiled on the front page of TDN's Monday edition as one of two apprentice jockeys topping the Delaware Park standings.

A native of Puerto Rico who initially began his career around horses as a farrier, Maldonado has only been riding in races since May 21, 2023. He got his start galloping for trainer Chad Brown at Palm Meadows, then began race-riding at Gulfstream last summer before switching his tack to Tampa Bay Downs.

Maldonado won 57 races at the 2023-24 Tampa meet, and has been based at Delaware since that track opened May 15. He currently tops all riders there with 26 victories while routinely traveling to other mid-Atlantic tracks to pick up a steady stream of mounts.

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