By: Frank Angst

Based on an updated opinion from its testing lab on its findings, Kentucky stewards will rescind three ractopamine positives initially called at the 2016 Kentucky Downs meeting.

Trainer George “Rusty” Arnold planned to appeal his two class 2 positives to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, but that move became unnecessary after the KHRC lab, LGC Science Lexington, reversed its initial findings. The lab also rescinded its positive found against trainer Joe Sharp.

Because the lab is no longer ruling ractopamine positives, all sanctions against involved trainers and owners will be lifted—that is to say, there will be no purse forfeitures.

KHRC executive director Marc Guilfoil said KHRC staff was informed Feb. 19 of the lab’s updated opinion after it determined that while it found metabolites of ractopamine in the samples, it had not found the actual drug in the samples. Guilfoil said according to the lab, an updated methodology requires a finding of ractopamine, not just its metabolite, in calling a positive. He said only the metabolites were found in the three samples.

Lab director Dr. Rick Sams was not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.

Guilfoil forwarded the new information to the stewards and asked that they re-evaluate their initial decision based on the updated information from the lab.

“The KHRC staff received new information concerning the testing methodologies and effects of ractopamine,” Guilfoil said Tuesday. “The new information was not received until yesterday, three days after the stewards issued their rulings this past Friday in three ractopamine cases.

“This information was forwarded to the stewards, who after carefully considering the information, determined this morning that in the interest of fairness, the stewards’ prior rulings concerning the ractopamine cases will be rescinded.”

The stewards met Tuesday morning and decided to rescind their previous ruling. Kentucky chief steward Barbara Borden said its initial ruling, dated Feb. 15 and released Feb. 16, officially will be rescinded Feb. 21. Guilfoil said the involved parties were informed of the decision.

“Obviously, there’s relief that they eventually made the right decision,” Sharp said. “It does show the importance of protections for horsemen, especially as contamination cases go. It is a step in the right direction.”

Arnold was not immediately available for comment the evening of Feb. 20.

Arnold faced positives in a pair of winners for Calumet Farm: Prudenceon Sept. 10 and Quality Emperor on Sept. 15. Sharp faced a ractopamine positive following the third-place finish by Bankers Holiday Sept. 10 at Kentucky Downs. The trainers will not be sanctioned and the original placings and purse money awards will be upheld.

Ractopamine is a class 2 drug—the classification of second-highest concern on the Association of Racing Commissioners International’s Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances and Recommended Penalties Model Rule. Commonly used as a feed additive for some livestock, it is a beta agonist that encourages growth of lean muscle. It calls for the highest level penalty, Class A, in the ARCI guidelines.

Sharp was pleased with the final outcome but still had concerns about any potential impact on his and Arnold’s reputation and how long the entire matter took. Guilfoil said he regretted that the lab had not arrived at its final conclusion earlier. He said once the updated information was received, the KHRC and stewards took proper action based on that new determination.

“It’s unfortunate,” Guilfoil said of not arriving at the final conclusion sooner and sparing the owners and trainers shame in having their names involved and costing them money to hire lawyers. “We’re going to do everything we can to correct that.

“At the end of the day, we did the right thing.”