By Ed Johnson
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A racehorse co-owned by Ruidoso Downs owner R.D. Hubbard and The Downs at Albuquerque owner Paul Blanchard has tested positive for an excessive amount of a therapeutic drug, New Mexico Racing Commission executive director Vince Mares confirmed Tuesday.
The 2-year-old filly Lilly Is First tested positive for clenbuterol while qualifying during the May 29 trials for the $337,186 Mountain Top Futurity at Ruidoso Downs. The filly went on to win the futurity’s final and its $141,622 first-place prize on June 13, Hubbard’s 80th birthday. The quarter horse is trained by Michael Joiner and was bred by Mike Abraham, who also owns a share of her.
Blanchard said Tuesday he was “sick” to hear the news of the positive but did not want to comment until he gathered more information.
Hubbard was unavailable for comment.
The filly’s owners will be afforded a split sample to be tested by a referee lab before the commission decides how to proceed, Mares said. If that split comes back positive, a stewards hearing will take place. The commission could impose a fine and suspension of the trainer, and it could cost the owners their share of the purse.
Mares said clenbuterol is a legal drug by commission standards, but only at certain levels.
“In this case it exceeded the allowable level,” Mares said.
Three other horses from Joiner’s barn also tested positive for clenbuterol in late May.
Clenbuterol is used in horses to treat respiratory disease, but there is concern that in higher doses it mimics muscle-building anabolic steroids.
Different jurisdictions have different testing levels for the drug, which has sparked an effort by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and Association of Racing Commissioners International to push for uniform guidelines.
The American Quarter Horse Association this year announced that beginning Jan. 1, 2016, clenbuterol in “any form will be banned from use in any type of American Quarter Horse Race.”
“Once the zero-tolerance policy goes into effect, if a horse must absolutely use clenbuterol for a medical issue, we will lose that horse for a period of time from our races,” AQHA President Johnny Trotter said in a news release.
Both Ruidoso Downs and The Downs at Albuquerque have instituted stricter policies the past three years regarding the drugging of racehorses, particularly when it involves Class 1 drugs such as morphine and cocaine.
Hubbard, in a 2014 news release announcing stiffer procedures, said those who attempt to cheat are “a cancer to horse racing.”
Ruidoso Downs added extra requirements this year for its six major races – Ruidoso Futurity, Ruidoso Derby, Rainbow Futurity, Rainbow Derby, All American Futurity and All American Derby. Every horse who enters those races must be on the grounds 10 days prior to the trials. Those who qualify must remain on the grounds through the finals. Ruidoso Downs uses nearly 100 cameras in the barn area to track the horses, general manager Shaun Hubbard (R.D’s grandson) said in a May news release.