08/06/2002 11:00PM

Florida drops cases vs. three


MIAMI - The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has agreed to drop all charges stemming from a 1999 case against trainers Mark Hennig, Todd Pletcher, and David Donk alleging positive drug tests on horses they trained, according to John Behrendt, the attorney representing the three New York-based horsemen. The division alleged they had horses test positive for trace levels of cocaine during the 1999 Gulfstream and Hialeah Park meetings.

The division suspended the licenses of Hennig and Pletcher on May 12, 1999, and also issued an order to suspend the license of Donk, who was out of the country at the time. All three suspensions were stayed in U.S. District Court by Judge Kimba Wood on May 26, 1999. The case never came to trial.

The level of cocaine allegedly found in the lab reports for Hennig's horse, King's Mate, was 50 nanograms per milliliter. The amount found in Pletcher's horse, Baxter's Road, was 20 nanograms. Florida is a zero-tolerance level state, meaning that the presence of any amount of a banned drug is enough to disqualify a horse.

Behrendt, a senior partner at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in New York, said: "There are just too many ways that trace levels of a substance like cocaine can get into a horse's system in our society, and none of these trainers deserve to have their records tainted with something like this. Perhaps now the state of Florida will be able to take a harder look into perhaps changing their regulations without having to worry about the legal ramifications of this particular case."

"I'm glad it's over," said Donk. "Hopefully this might lead Florida to get on board with the rest of the country in regards to its drug testing regulations and legislation."

Lonnie Parizek, a spokesperson for the division, said the division would have no comment on the case until the final orders are released by the attorneys.