09/10/2012 4:19PM

Illinois Racing Board finds 26 corticosteroid positives


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Twenty-six horses tested positive for prednisone, a corticosteroid, during late spring and early summer in Chicago. All the positive tests revealed minute traces of a drug permitted to be used therapeutically but forbidden on race day, and trainers whose horses tested positive said they followed the same procedures for administering prednisone that they’ve used for years. The sheer number of rulings issued by Arlington Park stewards on Sept. 2, however, figures to draw attention.

Trainer Wayne Catalano received rulings for overages in 10 horses. Trainer Ingrid Mason had three positives, Frank Springer, Eric Reed, and Scott Becker two positives. Danny Miller, Mike Stidham, Tony Mitchell, Jim McMullen, Richie Scherer, Helen Pitts, and Jim Gulick each had a single positive.

All but one of the horses won, but not because prednisone enhances performance. Rather, Arlington Park in 2010 began paying to have so-called super tests performed on the winners of all its races, a practice that ended (as scheduled months before) July 1. Regular testing procedures would not have triggered positive tests because the level of prednisone detected in all instances was so low. Several positives were called on horses with less than 10 nanograms of prednisone per milliliter of urine. The highest level recorded was 214 nanograms. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. More widely used tests typically measure drug levels using millionths of a gram.

The only non-winning positive was called on Distorted Love after a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails on April 21 at Hawthorne. Super tests were performed on the top three finishers there because of protocols associated with graded stakes. Distorted Love’s positive was the first called. The others came between May 5 and June 30.

Prednisone is a commonly used synthetic corticosteroid (not to be confused with outlawed anabolic steroids). It helps horses experiencing chronic mucus in their respiratory system and has anti-inflammatory properties. The Association of Racing Commissioners International, whose model rules Illinois follows, classifies prednisone as Class 4, the second-lowest on its five-level system. The ARCI has not established a threshold level for prednisone, leaving the Illinois Racing Board and stewards no choice but to call the positives. No horses were disqualified nor purse money redistributed. Trainers were fined from $250 to $1,500, depending on the amount of prednisone detected. Catalano received $6,500 in fines. He said Monday that he had not yet decided whether to appeal.

“If they’d let me know after the first one, we could’ve avoided the rest of them,” Catalano said.

Catalano and other horsemen said they had administered prednisone in the same manner this summer as they had for years.

“We gave it 48 hours out, just like every year that I’ve been in Chicago,” trainer Mike Stidham said.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium doesn’t list a recommended withdrawal time for prednisone in Illinois. Its website, however, does recommend 48-hour withdrawal in California, Kentucky, and New York.