Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission Stewards Under Scrutiny For Summary Suspensions: Paulick Report 4/26/17

By: Ray Paulick

Last week we wrote about a horse being allowed to run in the finals of the April 22 Remington Park Futurity for Quarter horses despite the horse’s owner and trainer being summarily suspended because of what stewards with the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission deemed a serious drug infraction involving another horse in the trainer’s stable.

Here’s a follow-up.

The horse in question, La Vencedora, went on to victory in the $1,002,500-added race, earning $373,000 for her owner, Theresa (Terry) McLean. La Vencedora was saddled by John Weghorst, substituting for regular trainer Gerry McLean, the husband of Terry McLean.

Both McLeans were summarily suspended after Expressions N Snow, a horse owned by Sharon Hafliger and trained by Gerry McLean, tested positive for Tolfenamic acid, after finishing second in the March 25 Oklahoma Paint and Appaloosa Futurity at Remington Park. Tolfenamic acid is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory not approved for use in animals by the FDA.

The McLeans went to Oklahoma County district court to seek an injunction against the summary suspensions, which would have prevented La Vencedora from competing. Trainer Gerry McLean’s request was denied, but district Judge Alitia Timmons granted a stay of the suspension for owner Terry McLean, allowing her to run the horse in a different trainer’s name.

It turns out there were other summary suspensions issued involving a finalist in the Remington Park Futurity, but these suspensions were timed so the licensees would not be able to seek a court injunction and run their horse.

Eos a Political Win, the fastest qualifier in the time trials for the Futurity and the 5-2 morning line favorite, is owned by Mike Castanon’s Elite Oilfield Services and trained by Alfredo Gomez. Eos Trumpster, another horse owned by Castanon and trained by Gomez, tested positive for the bronchodilator clenbuterol – at the level of 142 pg/ml from urine – after winning an April 8 time trial. Clenbuterol is not permitted in Quarter horse racing in Oklahoma and there is no threshold level for the drug.

The clenbuterol positive was reported to the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission by Industrial Laboratories of Wheat Ridge, Colo., on April 20. The following day, Gomez and Castanon were verbally notified of their summary suspensions and told Eos a Political Win would be scratched.

Stewards ruled “the public health, safety and welfare is at risk and requires emergency action” as a result of the clenbuterol positive from a different horse in the barn.

Clark Brewster, a horse owner and attorney representing Castanon, said Gomez was notified by telephone at 4:50 p.m. CDT on Friday, April 21 without a hearing on the matter. The call came too late to seek a court injunction, Brewster told the Paulick Report, and he sought a temporary stay order from the commission.

“The summary suspension does not involve Eos a Political Win, the summary suspension is extraordinary and granting a stay would not damage anyone,” Brewster wrote in his appeal to the commission. “On the other hand denying a stay could cause significant monetary loss.”

Brewster said stewards issued the summary suspension of Gomez and Castanon and the commission denied Brewster’s appeal with the knowledge that district Judge Timmons gave Terry McLean a stay, writing in her opinion that denying the horse the opportunity to run may cause her owner to “suffer irreparable harm and raises and implicates constitutional due process.”

“As far as I know, (Gomez) has never had an infraction in Oklahoma,” Brewster said. “In 2014 he had a clenbuterol positive in New Mexico. This is the most stupefying series of decisions without regard to basic due process set forth in the rules and statues. Just because of the clenbuterol rules – and I don’t condone its use or anything that would benefit performance or affect the outcome of a race – it does not mean you can just completely disregard basic rights. We are a government of laws, not men.”

Brewster said Castanon is exploring his legal options in the matter.

 

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