05/24/2008 12:00AM

California trainer draws belated fine


Trainer Christopher Vienna has been fined $1,000 after one of his starters tested positive for the sedative fluphenazine at Bay Meadows in March 2005, a case that was not heard until last December.

The sanction was less severe than what California Horse Racing Board officials had hoped would be imposed, according to a board release. Vienna's case was heard by administrative law judge David L. Benjamin in a three-day hearing last December. Benjamin issued the fine and disqualified the Vienna-trained winner Speak the Language from the sixth race at Bay Meadows on March 31, 2005, a race for $10,500 to $12,500 claimers.

In his statement, Benjamin noted the racing board's recommendation for a 30-day suspension and a $5,000 fine for Vienna, but wrote "in light of the evidence in mitigation, suspension of [Vienna's] license is not warranted. There is no basis, however, to dismiss the proceeding without the imposition of discipline."

Therefore, Benjamin issued a $1,000 fine.

In protest, the racing board declined to accept the decision, which under state regulations went into effect 100 days after it was received by the racing board on Feb. 14. The 100-day period expired on Saturday.

Under rules pertaining to cases before Jan. 1, 2008, the racing board could "neither modify nor amend a proposed decision by the administrative law judge so as to increase any sanction or penalty contemplated in the proposed decision."

According to a statement released by the racing board on Friday detailing the Vienna case, that provision is no longer part of state law for cases that occurred after Jan. 1, 2008.