08/21/2013 9:49AM

Charles Town: Grove medication suspension upheld

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The West Virginia Racing Commission voted to uphold a hearing officer’s recommendation to suspend trainer Chris Grove for six months after a horse he trained tested positive for a Class 1 medication at Charles Town Races in July of last year.

Grove had asked the racing commission to stay the suspension after Charles Town stewards issued the penalty in March, but the commission refused. As a result, Grove has been serving the suspension since March 4, and the suspension is due to expire on Sept. 4, according to Kelli Talbot, the commission’s counsel.

Grove, who is based in Maryland, has not started a horse in any state since the suspension began, according to records, indicating that other states honored the refusal to stay the suspension. He will be eligible to reapply for a license on Sept. 4, Talbot said.

Grove’s attorney, Karl Nobert, did not immediately respond to a phone message.

Grove was suspended after Bubba de France tested positive for nikethamide, a stimulant, following a win in a $5,000 claiming race at Charles Town on July 28, 2012. The minimum recommended penalty for a Class 1 medication is a six-month suspension and a $5,000 fine.

According to Talbot, Grove denied administering the drug to the horse. He was issued the penalty under the trainer responsibility rule, a regulation in place in all U.S. racing jurisdictions holding the trainer responsible for any post-race test positives in the absence of any other compelling evidence.

Under new penalty guidelines that West Virginia is considering for adoption by the beginning of 2014, the finding of a Class 1 medication like nikethamide would be coupled with an automatic 60-day suspension over and above the initial penalty. In addition, the positive would result in Grove being issued six “points” that could not be expunged from his record. Any other positives would result in additional points and additional penalties if the total points crossed a certain threshold – including an additional one-year suspension if the trainer accrues a total of 11 or more points.