By T. D. Thornton
Two odds-on favorites who won their respective races by 15 1/2 and 7 1/2 lengths at Charles Town Sept. 17 have subsequently been disqualified after both tested positive for the widely abused-in-humans synthetic opioid fentanyl and eutylone, the street-drug stimulant known as “bath salts.”
The Charles Town board of stewards, however, is citing “substantial mitigating factors” and terming both “trace level” cases as “environmental contamination” that will spare both horses’ trainers from steep Class 1, Category A penalties.
The explanation, according to a pair of West Virginia Racing Commission (WVRC) rulings dated Oct. 22, is that a stable employee who handled both animals pre-race contaminated them with traces of the illicit drugs. That licensee, identified only as “he” in the rulings, subsequently refused to take a drug test ordered by the stewards and has since been suspended.
The Jack Hurley-trained Morality Clause (Verrazano) broke her maiden in start number nine in the second race at Charles Town on Sept. 17. She forced the pace and drew off handily by 15 1/2 lengths at 2-5 odds for ownership partners Cutair Racing and Randall Manor Racing.
Two races later, the filly Take Me Home (Take Charge Indy) won a starter/$10,000 optional claiming race by 7 1/2 lengths at 7-10 odds for ship-in trainer Timothy Kreiser and Bush Racing Stable.
But according to the ruling, because of COVID-19 pandemic protocols, “Mr. Kreiser could not enter the backside so Take Me Home ran out of the barn of Jack Hurley. Mr. Kreiser and Mr. Hurley were not acquaintances but were brought together by a mutual owner.”
The same handler from Hurley’s shed row had contact with both horses, the stewards deemed.
According to Equibase, Hurley has been training since 2018 and has seven lifetime wins from 47 starters. Kreiser, Penn National’s leading trainer the past six years, has 1,907 lifetime wins in a conditioning career that dates to 1993.
Fentanyl and eutylone have no acceptable threshold concentration levels according to WVRC standards.
Hurley’s ruling stated that “The trainer is the absolute insurer of and responsible for the condition of the horses he or she enters in an official workout or a race, regardless of the acts of third parties…. Mr. Hurley’s past record as a permit holder is good in that he has one medication violation in this jurisdiction in the past 365 days. The amount of fentanyl and eutylone found in the horse is a trace level which lends credibility to the probability that the horse was inadvertently exposed to the drug in some manner…. Therefore, the standard penalty for a first offense Class A medication violation (one-year suspension/$10,000 fine) is not imposed in this matter.”
Kreiser’s ruling stated that “There is no reason to believe that Mr. Kreiser knew of or caused the drug to be administered to the horse…. The stewards are explicitly authorized to consider inadvertent exposure as a factor in determining medication violations…. Weighing and balancing these factors, the board of stewards find that while Mr. Kreiser is held responsible for the positive in this case, the stewards shall impose no penalty against Mr. Kreiser’s permit.”
In addition, neither Hurley nor Kreiser will be docked the six Multiple Medication Violation points they would typically be assessed in this instance.