05/02/2011 4:09PM

Keeneland: Drug test holding up purse distribution


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Purses for the April 15 race card at Keeneland Racecourse have yet to be paid out, according to horsemen, their representatives, and track officials, because of at least one suspicious post-race test from an unidentified horse on the card.

The two-week delay in distributing the purses for the card, which included the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile and nine other races, has upset many trainers whose horses earned money that day. Purse funds are normally deposited in horsemen’s accounts 72 hours after a race is official, when the initial screening of post-race samples for prohibited substances is completed.

Owner-trainer Bill Cesare, who won the 10th race on the April 15 card, a claiming race with a $30,000 purse, said that as a result of the delay he has been unable to pay his bills, and that he had written checks in excess of his account balance just days after the race in anticipation of receiving the purse money under the normal schedule.

Cesare and horsemen’s representatives said on Monday that jockeys who rode that day had received their share of the winning purses. Cesare said that officials of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission explained that the suspicious post-race test did not come from a horse in the 10th race, but that they were withholding all funds from horses that earned purses that day so as not to “embarrass” the trainers in the affected race. Post-race samples are provided to drug-testing laboratories without data identifying the horse’s name or the race in which it participated, but that data can be obtained by the commission.

“How embarrassing is it for you if you’ve got a bunch of bills and don’t have money to pay them?” Cesare said. “This is a disgrace.”

Officials at the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission did not respond to requests for comment.

In situations in which post-race tests indicate the possibility of a positive, drug-testing labs subject the suspicious samples to a series of confirmatory tests to determine if the finding should be considered a violation. At many tracks, purse funds are usually withheld until the confirmation tests are complete, because many violations require the redistribution of purses if a horse is disqualified.

Julie Balog, a spokeswoman for Keeneland, said that the track was withholding the purse funds until the drug-testing laboratory has completed its analysis.

“Keeneland’s practice is to release the purse money to horsemen on the same day we receive notification from the Kentucky Racing Commission that the lab tests for a race day have been cleared,” Balog said. “We have not yet received notification regarding the lab results for April 15.”

Marty Maline, the executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said that horsemen have been flooding his office with calls requesting updates on the status of the payments. Maline spoke with officials of the racing commission over the weekend to obtain an explanation for the delay, and was told that the money would likely be released in the next several days.

“There’s a lot of horsemen who want their money,” Maline said.

Last year during Keeneland’s fall meet, a similar situation arose in which purse funds for an entire card were withheld until confirmation tests were completed. At the time, the Kentucky HBPA complained that the commission should allow the distribution of funds from races that are unaffected by the second round of confirmatory testing. Commission officials had said at the time that they would re-evaluate the policy.