By: Ray Paulick
In the “whatever happened to” department, we have some closure on a high-profile drug disqualification in Quarter horse racing from last year.
The case involved Lilly Is First, winner of the $337,186 Mountain Top New Mexico Quarter Horse Futurity at Ruidoso Downs June 13, 2015. Owned in partnership by Ruidoso Downs owner R.D. Hubbard, Mike Abraham and Paul Blanchard (who operates The Downs Racetrack & Casino in Albuquerque), Lilly Is First tested positive for clenbuterol in her winning trial race for the Mountain Top finals on May 29. She was one of four horses from the barn of trainer Michael Joiner the commission said tested above the permitted levels for clenbuterol.
The positive test came months after Hubbard announced enhanced security and testing for major races at the New Mexico racetrack he owns, saying those who attempt to cheat in the sport are a “cancer to horse racing.”
Last July, the New Mexico Racing Commission enacted temporary rules banning the use of clenbuterol.
On Dec. 14, stewards at Zia Park disqualified three of the Joiner-trained horses. In addition to Lilly Is First, who was disqualified from purse money both from the trial win and the Mountain Top finals, stewards disqualified Koby’s Wagon and Thunderball B from their respective races on May 23 and May 24. The fourth horse named in the original complaint, Straw Fly Flower, was not disqualified.
The owners of the three horses lost purse money ($141,622 in the case of Lilly Is First) and the horses all went on the vet’s list (Koby’s Wagon and Thunderball B have since raced).
According to the stewards’ ruling, trainer Joiner was fined $1,000 for each of the three violations and suspended 60 days, with the suspension “waived by the commission per Section 3, provided Mr. Joiner is compliant with the full terms of the stipulated settlement agreement.” The stewards ruled that the three violations shall be treated as a “first-offense positive test violation in the past 365-day period.”
One year ago, stewards in New Mexico were quite a bit more harsh on a trainer named Jose Muela, who received a one-year suspension for three clenbuterol violations.
The rulings on the Joiner horses came one week after Vince Mares stepped down as executive director of the New Mexico Racing Commission. Longtime industry executive Dan Fick has been hired on an interim basis to lead the commission until a permanent replacement for Mares is found. Fick’s tenure, which he is said is limited to 90 days, began today.