Trainer Dale Capuano has been held blameless because of what Laurel Park stewards called “mitigating circumstances” after Six Tonsafun, a horse in his care, tested positive for cocaine and its metabolites following a victory in the fourth race at the Maryland track on July 22.
According to the ruling, dated Aug. 31, Maryland Racing Commission investigators interviewed the horse’s groom after Truesdail Laboratories in California reported the positive test. “Because of his past history and the drug in question,” the ruling states, “the groom was requested to deliver a urine sample. He refused to take the drug test but did admit that he was in possession of cocaine the day the horse ran.”
Capuano waived his right to a split sample and legal representation at an Aug. 20 hearing.
Stewards opted not to fine or suspend Capuano but did disqualify Six Tonsafun from the victory and the $13,110 in purse money for first place.
On Sept. 8, Capuano filed an appeal with the Maryland Racing Commission on behalf of owners Rob Ry Farm and Jayne Marie Slysz disputing the horse’s disqualification.
Purse money, which previously had been ordered redistributed, is now being held by the horsemen’s bookkeeper. Until the appeal is heard, Six Tonsafun and the original runner-up, Abracadabra, are both considered winners for race condition purposes.
Capuano, who has saddled 3,319 winners from 17,076 starters since 1981, has been sanctioned three times for minor medication violations since 2005, according to ThoroughbredRulings.com.
The decision to hold Capuano blameless is in contrast to how three positive tests for cocaine were handled by Maryland stewards in 1991. Charlie Hadry, Richard Delp and Carlos Garcia each were handed 15-day suspensions despite evidence of contamination from backstretch employees.
J. Michael Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, said the recent court decision in Kentucky overturning a drug disqualification and calling the state’s absolute insurer rule unconstitutional did not play into the stewards’ decision in the Capuano case.
“The way our rule is structured the absolute insurer clause is still there, but as far as a penalty is concerned, it says stewards may suspend or fine the trainer. In the years I’ve been with the racing commission, the absolute insurer rule has been challenged several times in court and it’s always stood up. As one of our commissioners said recently about the Kentucky ruling, Maryland is a different state.”
In 2016, Texas stewards absolved several trainers of any blame when six horses tested positive for a different street drug, methamphetamine. Stewards similarly ruled human contamination was a “mitigating circumstance” in not suspending or fining the trainers. The horses in those cases were disqualified from their placings and purse money earned.