By: Jim Dunleavy
The Maryland Jockey Club is looking into pending medication violations against trainer Marcus Vitali in Florida, according to Sal Sinatra, president of the MJC. Vitali, the third-leading trainer at the Gulfstream Park winter meet, relocated his 35-horse stable to Laurel Park earlier this month.
Vitali acknowledged Saturday that on his lawyer’s advice, he had recently turned in his Florida trainer’s license.
“For the time being, we are not taking any entries from Marcus Vitali as we investigate what is going on and The Stronach Group decides how this should be handled,” Sinatra said. “He already had horses entered for this weekend, and I decided to let them run as we look into things.”
Although Vitali declined to comment on any pending violations he may have, he said, “I’ve done nothing wrong, but my attorneys recommended I turn in my license so they could better litigate these problems.”
The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering could have limited options sanctioning someone who is not licensed with them. Other states, however, might take a dim view of someone turning in their license in another jurisdiction to avoid, or delay, a fine or suspension, if that is the case.
According to the web site, MyFloridaLicense.com, Vitali has had seven Class 4 medication violations since October, five in 2015 and two in January.
Class 4 medications are described by the Association of Racing Commissioners International as therapeutic medications that include non-steroidal ant-inflammatory drugs at concentrations greater than established limits. The Association of Racing Commissioners International classifies medications into five categories with Class 1 being the most likely to effect a horse’s performance and Class 5 the least likely.
There have been a large number of medication violations by various trainers in Florida since new rules went into effect in early January. Many of the violations stem from prohibited levels of therapeutic medications, including commonly used medications like phenylbutazone, ketoprofen, and flunixin, painkillers that are not allowed on race day but can be used leading up to a race.
The violations have occurred since Florida began enforcing new regulations that are modeled on uniform rules developed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. The rules include a new regulation designed to prevent trainers from using multiple painkillers at low doses that would achieve the same effect as a single painkiller at a large dose, a technique known as “stacking.”
In March 2015, Vitali was suspended 10 days in Florida and fined $3,350 by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering for eight overages for the therapeutic medications bute, DMSO, acepromazine, clenbuterol, and methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant.
“I’ve been wrong on occasion and paid fines and served any days given to me,” Vitali said. “When I’m wrong, I’ll take my lumps and bumps, but when I’m right, I’ll fight.”
Vitali stabled at Monmouth Park the previous three summers. He finished third in the standings there last summer.
Vitali, a former leading trainer in New England, has won more than 800 races since he began training in 1982. He is the conditioner of multiple graded stakes winner Valid, who went over $1 million in earnings this winter.