10/04/2016 6:01PM

Motion won't have to serve suspension

Barbara D. Livingston
Graham Motion was originally assessed a five-day suspension for a methocarbamol positive in April at Keeneland.

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Trainer Graham Motion will not have to serve a five-day suspension levied by stewards last year for an overage of a regulated muscle relaxant in a horse he trained who won a stakes race at the Keeneland Spring meet, under a modified penalty agreement approved on Tuesday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Kitten’s Point, the George Strawbridge-owned filly who tested positive for the drug, will remain disqualified from the April 24 Bewitch Stakes under the agreement, and Motion will still be assessed a $500 fine. The Bewitch had a $150,000 purse.

The agreement was approved by the commission after a 90-minute closed session. Ten members voted to approve the agreement, while five members abstained due to business relationships with Motion or his owners. The commission includes a number of working veterinarians and farm employees.

Following the vote, Motion, who attended the Tuesday commission meeting with his attorney but was not allowed to remain in the meeting room during the closed session, said that he remained distressed that he was not allowed to address the commission personally while also reiterating that he still believed that the KHRC’s guidelines regarding the medication, methocarbamol, are inadequate. However, he also said he was relieved to have the suspension lifted.

“Clearly, they must have concerns about [the guidelines] because they did away with the suspension,” Motion said. “Clearly, they must think there is a gray area.”

Motion was handed the initial penalty in October, nearly six months after the race. His appeal hearing was earlier this year, and the hearing officer’s recommendation was to uphold the entire penalty, including the five-day suspension. The commission modified the agreement to throw out the suspension.

John Forgy, the KHRC’s general counsel, and Frank Kling, the commission’s chairman, said after the meeting that they could not comment on the arguments the commission weighed while in closed session.

Motion has said that he has never had a medication violation in his 24-year career. Motion, a native of England, has been training on his own in the U.S. since the early 1990s, and is popular in the Kentucky racing community because of his success with top-class horses at the Keeneland meet. Strawbridge is an outspoken advocate for medication reform in the U.S., and his views are well known to most members of the commission.

Methocarbamol, which is used primarily to relieve muscle soreness, is one of more than two dozen regulated medications in Kentucky. The state’s guidelines recommend that the medication should not be administered within 48 hours of a race in order to avoid testing over the drug’s threshold level.

Some veterinarians and trainers, Motion included, have taken issue with Kentucky’s threshold level for the drug, citing some research that has indicated that the drug can test positive over the threshold level when administered outside of the recommended withdrawal time.

Motion reiterated on Tuesday that he last administered the medication to Kitten’s Point seven days prior to the Bewitch. The concentration of the drug in the filly’s blood sample was 2.9 nanograms per milliliter. The threshold level in Kentucky and most other states is 1.0 nanograms per milliliter.