05/31/2010 11:00PM

Judge won't extend stay for Mullins


A California superior court judge ruled on Tuesday that he would not extend a stay of a suspension issued by the California Horse Racing Board to trainer Jeff Mullins, sending him back to the sidelines after a five-day reprieve.

Mullins was issued a stay by Judge Yuri Hofmann of the California Superior Court of San Diego County on Thursday, 18 days into a 30-day suspension that began on May 9. Hofmann said on Tuesday during a hearing, however, that he would not extend the stay, requiring Mullins to serve out the full 30-day term of the suspension. Hofmann also scheduled a hearing for Aug. 3 to hear a further request by Mullins's counsel to grant a stay.

The order was issued Tuesday against the backdrop of a complex timeline arising from the circumstances in which Mullins was issued the 30-day suspension earlier this year.

The penalty stems from an August, 2008, incident in which a horse trained by Mullins named Pathbreaking tested positive for excessive levels of total carbon dioxide in the blood, the chemical signature of the administration of pre-race alkalinizing agents. The agents are typically administered in a baking soda-based solution commonly called a "milkshake."

At the time the horse tested positive, Mullins was in the midst of a one-year probation issued by the board because of a 2006 positive for the banned painkiller mepivacaine. Under the terms of the suspension, Mullins served 20 days of a possible 90-day suspension, with the caveat that Mullins could be issued an additional 70-day suspension if any of his horses tested positive for an illegal substance during the probationary period.

The racing board is scheduled to consider whether to issue an additional penalty to Mullins based on the probationary violation on Wednesday.

James Maniscalco, Mullins's lawyer, said that he will argue Wednesday that the hearing should be delayed because Mullins has challenged certain aspects of the 20-day suspension for the mepivacaine positive. The argument will contend that it is inappropriate for the racing board to consider additional penalties arising from the 2007 positive when Mullins has yet to exhaust his appeals of the penalty, Maniscalco said. In addition, Mullins will argue that the board is providing an inappropriate venue to consider the penalties due to the actions it has already taken in the case, the lawyer said.

Mullins filed a lawsuit requesting the stay on May 14. In the suit, Mullins accused the board of violating his due process rights by allowing biased witnesses to provide testimony and failing to establish strict guidelines on when blood can be pulled to test for alkalinizing agent, among other allegations.