06/29/2003 11:00PM

Harthill, Scherer fined

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Veterinarian Dr. Alex Harthill and trainer Merrill Scherer were fined $2,500 apiece Saturday after the Churchill Downs stewards determined that the two had violated regulations concerning the administration of a pre-race Lasix injection.

According to chief steward Bernie Hettel, an investigation found that Harthill left a hypodermic needle filled with Lasix in a desk drawer in a stable office after he left the grounds for an appointment. Harthill had arranged for another veterinarian to give the injection to the Scherer-trained Our Gang, a scheduled starter in the first race June 25, but when that veterinarian failed to show as the mandatory four-hour deadline for treatment neared, Scherer directed his assistant, Lynda Levey, to administer the injection. Kentucky regulations state that pre-race injections can be given only by a licensed veterinarian.

A state veterinarian happened to be in the barn when the injection was taking place, and she reported Levey's actions to the stewards, who launched the investigation. Our Gang, owned in partnership by Scherer and two other men, subsequently was scratched. Levey was fined $1,000 for her role in the incident.

Harthill, who has treated more than 25 Kentucky Derby winners, has been subjected to numerous inquiries and investigations in a career of more than 50 years.

When asked about the incident, Scherer, a trainer for over 40 years, said: "I just wanted to run the horse."