04/21/2008 11:00PM

Biancone faces new probe


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority is conducting an investigation into whether trainer Patrick Biancone has violated the terms of the one-year suspension he received late last year for the possession of the neurotoxin cobra venom, according to an authority official and Biancone's attorney.

Lisa Underwood, the authority's executive director, said Tuesday that the investigation centers on a provision of the suspension that prohibits Biancone from "training" any horses during the first six months of the penalty. Underwood declined to provide any other specifics about the investigation.

Frank Becker, a Lexington attorney who represents Biancone, declined to provide any details about the investigation, but said Biancone had complied with all the terms of his suspension. When asked if Biancone would fight any effort by the authority to issue additional penalties, Becker said that he would.

"He has not violated any terms of his suspension," Becker said.

Under an agreement that Biancone accepted with the authority in October, he was prohibited from training horses or setting foot on any racetrack grounds for a six-month period, from Nov. 1 to May 1, with the exception of the Keeneland January sale. He also was prohibited from seeking a trainer's license from any racing jurisdiction for another six months, and during the one-year term of the agreement, he was required to transfer all of the horses under his care to a trainer who did not have any financial arrangement with him.

The agreement stemmed from the discovery of three vials of cobra venom in his barn at Keeneland during a search by authority investigators on June 22. The vials were found in a bag in a refrigerator that was labeled with the name and phone number of one of Biancone's stable veterinarians, Dr. Rodney Stewart.

Biancone's attorneys insisted that Stewart placed the bags in Biancone's refrigerator without informing the trainer. Stewart was banned by the authority for five years.

Cobra venom is a powerful neurotoxin that can deaden pain. Its use is unregulated, and it cannot be detected in post-race urine or blood tests.

In January, Biancone and a partner, Fabien Ouaki, reached an agreement to purchase a 120-acre property that includes a one-mile training track with an artificial surface near Lexington. The property was previously owned by Hurricane Hall, a stallion farm, and the sale was expected to close in June.

Underwood said that any results of the investigation would be presented to the full authority during a public hearing, if necessary. A hearing into the matter has not yet been scheduled, Underwood said.