Updated on 11/26/2014 10:04AM

Los Alamitos to test hair follicles of Quarter Horses

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CYPRESS, Calif. – Los Alamitos will conduct hair-follicle testing on qualifiers for all Quarter Horse futurities and derbies and will enact a zero-tolerance policy for the breathing medication clenbuterol beginning in May, track owner Ed Allred said Saturday.

Allred said the new policy, expected to be presented to owners and trainers in the coming days, will take full effect May 1 and is a result of concern throughout Quarter Horse racing about widespread abuse of the medication. In recent weeks, concern over clenbuterol has led to delays and the cancellation of major stakes.

On Saturday, the track ran the final of the $972,100 Los Alamitos Super Derby, three weeks after its originally scheduled date. Following time trials Oct. 12, the 30 fastest qualifiers underwent hair-follicle testing for clenbuterol, Allred said. After the delay for testing, the 10 original qualifiers were allowed to run in the final, which was held as an exhibition without wagering.

Foose Cash Sr, one of eight qualifiers trained by Eloy Navarro, won the 400-yard race. Foose Cash Sr won the Los Alamitos Two Million last December when trained by Jose De La Torre. A few weeks later, De La Torre was told to vacate his stalls at Los Alamitos after a series of clenbuterol positives earlier in the year.

Navarro said in the winner’s circle Saturday that he believed Foose Cash Sr was administered clenbuterol when the gelding was based at Ruidoso Downs during the summer, but he emphasized that he did not train the horse at that time. Navarro said he does not use clenbuterol on the horses in his Los Alamitos stable.

Navarro has run afoul of regulators in recent years. He was suspended in 2012 for possession of a syringe.

In past years, the winner of the Super Derby would receive a berth in the $600,000 Champion of Champions in December, a race that plays a pivotal role in year-end championship voting. Earlier this month, Los Alamitos announced that the Dec. 13 Champion of Champions was canceled, citing concern about clenbuterol abuse.

In California, clenbuterol is permitted for use in training to aid horses with breathing problems but is allowed to appear in post-race tests at minute levels, 140 picograms per milliliter of urine, according to the California Horse Racing Board’s website. A picogram is a trillionth of a gram.

Allred said Los Alamitos has tougher rules, banning the medication entirely.

Allred said that in 2015, the track will work with veterinary testing facilities at the University of California-Davis on hair-follicle testing, and that the tests would cost the track approximately $250 per horse. He said such testing will be conducted on the top 15 qualifiers from Sunday’s time trials for the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and will be conducted in February on qualifiers for the Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Winter Derby.

“If they test positive, they’ll be thrown out of the race,” he said.

In addition, horses running in overnight races will be subject to random testing beginning in May.

“We’ll check one in 25” runners, he said. “We might check two a day or 10 in a day.”

He said the track will act immediately against a trainer with a positive, citing the track’s right to deny stalls or the opportunity to race. Allred said the track will not wait for the racing board’s hearing process to be completed before taking action.

“The state of California can look after the licenses,” he said. “I’ll look at this as a property owner. When I throw those guys out, they’ll still be licensed.”

Hair testing is considered more extensive than blood or urine tests, revealing medication use over a longer period of time.

Allred, the nation’s leading breeder of Quarter Horses, has called for other tracks around the nation to enact similar policies but expressed concern that Los Alamitos could have difficulties attracting entries if owners and trainers chose not to send horses to California. He has sought the support of the American Quarter Horse Association, the breed registry, to pressure other tracks into tougher regulation.

“We’ll be short of horses, and it will be tough,” he said. “This has been such a depressing thing for me to go through. I can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a picogram is a billionth of a gram. It is a trillionth of a gram.