10/07/2016 1:36PM

Hovdey: Restraining orders now on CHRB menu


Time to fight the power, horse-racing style.

Out West, trainer Steve Miyadi had a horse test positive last December for meth and speed. The California Horse Racing Board wanted to suspend him for six months. After Miyadi and his employees were tested and two of the crew failed, the board cut the suspension to one month and a $5,000 fine, based on the wiggle room allowed in California’s version of the trainer responsibility rule.

Miyadi did his time during the Del Mar meet, and that should have been that. But then, on the morning of Sept. 23 at Santa Anita Park, the trainer had an encounter with Alex Solis, Hall of Fame jockey and CHRB commissioner.

Yes, sports fans, California has a licensed jockey on the racing board, along with several other commissioners who are active owners and breeders of racehorses competing in California. Is this a bad idea? Of course it’s a bad idea, rife with potential conflicts of interest but perpetuated by the thinking that commissioners must have experience in the business in order to be effective commissioners.

For the most part, commissioners do their best to recuse themselves when perceived conflicts arise. But the potentially damning optics were made real by the Miyadi-Solis incident.

According to witnesses, their encounter grew verbally heated, a third party turned up the temperature, and the jockey-commissioner ended up on the ground. Solis responded by calling the Arcadia police and making a formal complaint that resulted in Miyadi’s arrest. The CHRB suspended Miyadi immediately, then stayed the suspension on the condition that the trainer could not come within 25 feet of any of the seven members of the racing board.

According to Darrell Vienna, Miyadi’s lawyer, the charges filed against his client were rejected, while a racing-board hearing into the incident is now scheduled for Oct. 18. In the meantime, the 25-foot restraining order stands, according to CHRB spokesman Mike Marten.

“Common sense says that Miyadi can go about his job and no one could accuse him of violating the order if a commissioner comes within 25 feet of him while he’s doing his duty,” Marten said.

That’s good to know because CHRB chairman Chuck Winner and commissioners George Krikorian and Madeleine Auerbach often run their horses where Miyadi campaigns his public stable. As for Solis, he rarely rides more than one horse a day, but that does not mean one of them won’t be No. 3 when Miyadi runs No. 4.

“It’s my feeling that the suspension was punitive rather than protective,” Vienna said, “and that the stay-away order was simply to provide them some assurance that they would not have to visit upon any of their commissioners the clear and present danger of a raging Miyadi attack.”

While we have someone mop up the pool of sarcasm that dripped from the barrister’s comment, let’s turn to Kentucky, where there was no restraining order placed on trainer Graham Motion by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. They simply closed the door.

Motion had been held responsible for the presence of the legal muscle relaxant methocarbomal (Robaxin) in excess of Kentucky’s allowable levels in a filly he ran at Keeneland last April. Motion appealed, and he was prepared to state his case before the commissioners when they met this week.

Instead, the commissioners deliberated in private while Motion cooled his heels, then emerged to declare that his five-day suspension was rescinded, but his $500 fine was not. Let it be noted that five of the 15 commissioners recused themselves because of – oh, look – conflicts of interest.

By his calculation, Motion had sent out some 11,000 starters without a medication violation. This makes him a reluctant poster boy for the hay, oats, and water movement that paints Motion as a Christian Scientist when it comes to the use of therapeutic drugs in the care of the equine athlete. In reality, he is a pragmatic horseman who goes the extra mile to follow the rules.

“I never have claimed that the filly was not treated, and I know we treated her the right way,” Motion said.

“I have used Robaxin in California, Florida, without the slightest problem while following their guidelines,” he added. “But I will never use it again, although I’m not sure that’s the way it should be. Why should we be put in the position of not being able to use certain legal drugs?

“When I went to England with Miss Temple City, an out-of-competition test picked up that she had been on Regu-Mate,” Motion said, referring to the hormone supplement that helps manage the estrus cycle. “They went out of their way to make sure I was going to be okay to run. They don’t want you to have a positive. I feel the attitude in Kentucky is completely the opposite, and that is a shame.”

If nothing else, Motion’s experience adds fuel to the necessity for uniform medication rules and drug testing. Still, five days and $500 seems like the kind of wrist slap Motion could have taken and moved on.

“I couldn’t just sit on it and say, ‘Oh well, I’m just another victim of the bad expectancy rates of withdrawal in Kentucky,’ ” he said. “We got tripped up by the system. I just don’t want it to keep happening to anyone else.”