04/12/2006 11:00PM

Harness trainer, driver suspended


Seldon Ledford, an Illinois-based harness trainer at the center of a blood-doping investigation in New Jersey, was suspended on Wednesday by the New Jersey Racing Commission for 10 1/2 years and fined $12,000. The racing commission issued the ruling and four others after hearing two days of testimony at Freehold Raceway into allegations that Ledford and his assistants conspired to fix horse races by administering the blood-doping drug Aranesp, or darbepoeitin, to harness horses that raced at The Meadowlands. Darbepoeitin, which was developed to treat anemia in humans, is illegal in all racing jurisdictions.

Last week, state police raided Ledford's barn at a New Jersey training center, Showplace Farms, and the homes of a veterinarian and assistant trainer that worked for Ledford. According to the police, the raid turned up vials of Aranesp, syringes, and a shock-wave therapy machine. The machine, which is used to promote healing in soft tissues but can result in numbness, is illegal to possess without a license in New Jersey.

According to Frank Zanzuccki, the executive director of the racing commission, Ledford appealed the suspension and fine on Thursday and asked the commission to grant a stay. Zanzuccki said that commissioners will review the appeal and make a determination on the stay next week. Also suspended were Ledford's son, Eric, a driver at the Meadowlands, for 10 1/2 years, with a $12,000 fine; Ryan Dailey, Ledford's assistant trainer, and his wife, Ardena, for eight years each, with a $10,000 fine each; and John Witmer, a veterinarian, for seven years, with a $7,500 fine.

Seldon Ledford was not charged by police after the raid last week. The other four individuals were all arrested on charges of conspiring to fix sporting contests. Zanzuccki said that only Seldon Ledford had appealed the commission's ruling by Thursday afternoon. The individuals have until April 18 to appeal, Zanzuccki said.