07/17/2013 3:58PM

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission restores Sign's win in Pocahontas Stakes

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FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved a settlement agreement at a meeting Wednesday that nullifies a stewards’ decision in 2012 to disqualify Sign from the 2012 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs and order the purse redistributed.

The settlement will restore the winner’s share of the Pocahontas purse to Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, who co-bred and co-own the filly. The Pocahontas is a Grade 2 race, and the reversal of the disqualification also will restore the black-type win to her catalog page.

The approval of the settlement came eight weeks after a two-day hearing in late May in which attorneys representing trainer Al Stall Jr. and the filly’s owners argued that the stewards went beyond the state’s regulations by ordering a disqualification. The stewards made the decision after Sign tested positive for an illegal amount of methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant that is commonly administered therapeutically to racehorses.

The settlement acknowledges that the stewards improperly interpreted the state’s regulations, said Bill Lear, one of the attorneys for Sign’s connections, after the commission voted unanimously to approve the settlement following an executive session in a hearing room at the Capitol Annex building in Frankfort.

The agreement is a victory for Sign’s connections, and especially so for Claiborne Farm, whose owner, Seth Hancock, attended both days of the hearings. Hancock is famously intolerant of illegal drug use, and he acknowledged during the May hearings that he had disputed the ruling in order to clear Claiborne’s name.

Stall said he had never administered methocarbamol to Sign, and he produced veterinary records at the hearing that did not show any record of the filly receiving an administration of the drug.

Nevertheless, Stall accepted a $500 fine for the Sign methocarbamol positive under the settlement. He also accepted a $1,000 fine for a second methocarbamol positive that was detected in another horse who ran at Churchill 10 days after Sign won the Pocahontas.

Attorneys representing the state had argued during the hearing that it was mandatory to order a disqualification in nearly all cases of medication positives under new rules adopted last September. They have now changed their tune.

“It’s our position now that the regulation is discretionary,” said Susan Speckert, the commission’s general counsel.