By Matt Hegarty
Roy Sedlacek, a New York-based trainer, has been suspended indefinitely by New York stewards after two of his horses tested positive for a powerful banned synthetic drug after racing at Belmont Park, according to state records.
The two horses tested positive for a rare substance called AH-7921 while racing one week apart at Belmont last month. AH-7921, first manufactured in the 1970s and banned in several countries, is a synthetic opiate similar to morphine that can be obtained in whole or as an ingredient of synthetic forms of recreational drugs. Those substances, which can sometimes have powerful and dangerous side effects, are often available at unregulated Internet operations or head shops.
The drug, which has been recently found in some forms of synthetic marijuana used by humans, is considered a Class 1 substance in every racing jurisdiction in the U.S. The recommended penalty for a single Class 1 positive is a one-year suspension and a fine of $10,000.
Sedlacek, who did not respond to a phone message on Monday, has been ordered to appear before the stewards on Tuesday. He has been prohibited from appearing on the grounds of New York racetracks.
Drug-testing officials said on Monday that they suspected the drug would have pain-killing effects in horses, lasting for approximately three to seven hours, depending on dose. In addition, if the drug acts like morphine, then it would be expected to have a mild stimulatory effect in horses, even though morphine in humans acts as a powerful sedative. Several other animals, including sheep and cattle, also are affected the same way as horses when administered morphine.
The drug-testing officials, who did not have direct knowledge of the case, also said that the concentration of the drug in the horse’s post-race samples would likely be the best indicator of whether the substance was being used to affect the horse’s performance or whether it entered the horse’s system accidentally through human contamination.
Sedlacek, who has trained for more than 30 years but has operated a small stable over the past decade, has three wins from 17 starts in 2015, along with four second-place finishes and two thirds. He has earned $164,592 this year from those 17 starts, for an average per start of $9,682, nearly four times his career average earnings per start.
The first horse to test positive, Bossmon, finished second on Oct. 11 in a $16,000 claiming race with a $28,000 purse. The second horse, Literata, finished first in an Oct. 18 allowance/optional claiming race with a purse of $65,000. Both horses were disqualified.
The Association of Racing Commissioners International said on Monday that it issued an alert to its U.S. member commissions to tell their drug-testing laboratories to be on notice for the drug. The ARCI said the New York findings were the first ever for the AH-7921.