06/26/2008 11:00PM

July 18 hearing set for Asmussen

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Barbara D. Livingston
Steve Asmussen was assigned a July 18 date by the Texas Racing Commission on Thursday for a stewards' hearing concerning a positive lidocaine test for one of his horses at Lone Star Park.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Steve Asmussen was assigned a July 18 date by the Texas Racing Commission on Thursday for a stewards' hearing concerning a positive lidocaine test for one of his horses at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Karen Murphy, the New York-based attorney representing Asmussen, said that she might request a postponement, adding that she will "vigorously defend" the trainer's innocence.

The case concerns Timber Trick, the winner of a maiden special weight race on May 10. A 3-year-old filly owned by Gainesway Stable, Timber Trick tested positive for lidocaine, a local anesthetic agent with a high potential to enhance performance. The recommended penalty for the trainer in such cases is a six-month suspension.

Murphy said Thursday she was in the process of "making a third written request for the science," including the amount of lidocaine found, after twice having been denied those particulars. She said she made the previous requests to Wanda Fritsche, an attorney representing the Texas commission.

Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for performance-enhancing drugs and other medications. Murphy said she suspects the amount of lidocaine detected was extremely small, and that "environmental contamination" is most likely to blame.

Jean Cook, a public information officer with the Texas Racing Commission, did not return phone calls Thursday.

"This whole system really doesn't work," said Murphy. "There is a huge misunderstanding about what is involved here, and part of the frustration is the feeding frenzy that ensues whenever a so-called 'positive' is made public."

Murphy said that after Asmussen was initially notified of the positive test, she asked to have a split sample sent to an independent laboratory at Louisiana State University but was denied. Instead, Texas officials sent the split sample to Industrial Laboratories in Colorado, Murphy said, adding that she was provided with a limited list of testing labs serving as alternatives to the commission's contracted service at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, which is affiliated with Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Asmussen leads all trainers in wins and earnings in 2008 and trains Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year.