By Bill Finley
Trainer Wesley Ward has begun serving a 15-day suspension after a horse he trained tested positive for the substances naproxen and metformin following a July 15, 2022, race at Monmouth. Ward's suspension began June 23 and ends July 7. He was also fined $2,000.
The Paulick Report was first with the story.
The infraction occurred in a five-furlong maiden special weight race on the turf with the gelding Insanity It Seems (Tale of the Cat), who won by 2 1/4 lengths. The horse, who is also owned by Ward, has not run back since.
Ward said he did not consider filing an appeal.
“What are you going to do?” he said. “When you appeal and go down that road things can get tough and you wind up paying a lot in lawyer bills.”
Because there were positives for two drugs, the penalties could have been more harsh, but, according to co-counsel Drew Mollica, the Monmouth stewards concluded that the presence of metformin in and of itself did not warrant a significant fine or suspension.
“The science proved that the metformin was at such a trace amount that they concluded there were mitigating circumstances,” said Mollica, who was co-counsel along with Darrell Vienna. “They took into account that metformin was a derivative of contamination. The penalty is indicative of the finding that only the naproxen was an issue and that the metformin was a result of contamination. Without the mitigation, the penalty could have been much harder. So we are appreciative of the New Jersey Commission paying attention to the science and buying into our argument.”
Naproxen, also known as the over-the-counter analgesic Aleve, is a regulated anti-inflammatory drug. According to the website Equimed.com, it can be used in horses to treat lameness, musculoskeletal pain from soft tissue injury, muscle soreness and bone and joint problems. Metformin is a human drug prescribed for type II diabetes. In horses, it may be prescribed if a horse cannot exercise due to laminitis, or if insulin levels are very high.
Ward said he did not know how the naproxen got into the horse's system.
“I shipped to Monmouth to another trainer's barn and his staff ran the horse for me,” he said. “He's a great friend of mine and when the results came back, I was surprised to hear what happened. I know the rules are rules and the stewards have to do what they have to do. I'm just going to try to keep doing the best I can.”
The Monmouth race marked the second time Ward has had a positive for metformin. His Averly Jane (Midshipman) tested positive for the drug in the April 28, 2021 Kentucky Juvenile S. at Churchill Downs. That offense resulted in a 15-day suspension.