04/05/2009 11:00PM

Mullins under scrutiny for medication


Trainer Jeff Mullins readily admits to administering a medication to his horse Gato Go Win last Saturday in Aqueduct's race-day security barn, but said he was unaware he was doing something wrong or anything that would have prompted the stewards to scratch the horse from the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes. The New York stewards are continuing their investigation into the matter to determine what, if any, penalties to hand Mullins.

The case will become more high-profile for the simple fact that Mullins is also the trainer of I Want Revenge, whose dazzling win in Saturday's Wood Memorial at Aqueduct could make him the favorite for the May 2 Kentucky Derby. Mullins's career - which includes citations by California racing officials for violations including excessive levels of sodium bicarbonate that required 24-hour surveillance of his horses on two occasions - will undergo scrutiny much like Richard Dutrow Jr. did last year as he campaigned Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown through the Triple Crown.

The stewards scratched Gato Go Win from the Bay Shore after security personnel observed Mullins giving the colt a dose of Air Power, an over-the-counter medication described as cough medicine and which also helps open nasal passages. The product, which Mullins says he uses regularly on his horses in Southern California, is administered with a metal oral dose syringe. New York rules prohibit giving any medication - other than Lasix - to a horse in the race-day security barn. The Lasix is administered by a NYRA vet. NYRA rules also prohibit the presence of dose syringes in the security barn.

Mullins indicated Monday that had he not been made aware that giving the medication to Gato Go Win was a violation, he likely would have given it to I Want Revenge as well.

"In a way it was fortunate," Mullins said by phone Monday from Santa Catalina Island, where he was vacationing with his children. "It could have been I Want Revenge; it could have been him just as easy as the other horse."

Mullins said he is not sure if I Want Revenge was given Air Power before his 8 1/2-length victory in last month's Gotham, also at Aqueduct. Mullins, who said a bottle of Air Power did go with the horse to the security barn that day, said that he was not at the security barn prior to that race, and that he had to hire two employees from trainer Tony Dutrow's staff to go in with the horse because his help could not get licensed.

"Those guys probably know" not to give it, Mullins said. "They went through this before. I don't know if he [received it] or he didn't."

Joe Mahoney, a spokesman for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, said investigators had no reason to suggest I Want Revenge be scratched from the Wood.

"Our information suggests they would have seen any questionable activity involving I Want Revenge," Mahoney said. "There's no indication of that. I Want Revenge was tested postrace, so if there's a problem we'll know about it."

Mullins said he didn't think there was a problem on Saturday because security personnel allowed him to bring the bottle into the barn when he brought the horses over Saturday morning. He said the bottle was clearly marked and was inside a five-gallon bucket.

"I figured once they went through all my stuff and let it in, I was fine," Mullins said. "In my mind it was an innocent mistake. Obviously, they overlooked it, and their oversight led to an honest mistake. There were two security guards in front of my horses all the time; they watched me do it."

Mullins said it wasn't until after he administered the Air Power to Gato Go Win that security guards began asking questions.

"The guy asked to see the bottle, and said, 'What was that stuff you gave him?' " Mullins said. "I thought he was being inquisitive. I said, 'It's just Air Power, it's like a cough drop.' I gave it to him, he walked off, they grabbed the syringe, they come back, told me I was scratched. I said, 'Really, for what?' They said you're not supposed to administer anything to a horse on race day other than Lasix. I said, 'How did they let me in here with it?' "

Mullins said when the stewards called him he asked them to not scratch the horse and penalize the owners, and to pull some blood and test the horse. Air Power, according to the manufacturer's website, contains honey, apple cider, vinegar, aloe vera, menthol, oil of eucalyptus, lemon juice, and ethyl alcohol.

Mahoney said the medication is not permitted to be administered to a horse on race day even before the horse comes to the security barn. He said the bottle of Air Power and the syringe were confiscated and will undergo a complete analysis at the state's equine drug lab at Cornell University.

Mahoney said that the board could not be specific about any potential penalties, and that it is aware of the sensitivity of the case given the proximity to the Kentucky Derby.

"We want to be thorough; we'll move forward in due course," he said. "We're aware of the racing calendar."

I Want Revenge is co-owned by David Lanzman and the IEAH Stables, headed by Michael Iavarone. Lanzman has controlling interest in the horse and calls the shots on who trains him. Iavarone, whose outfit came out with a stand last fall against using race-day medication other than Lasix, said the only clause in the contract that gives IEAH authority would be if I Want Revenge finished out of the money in three consecutive races.

"I must be the luckiest guy and the unluckiest guy in the world," Iavarone said. "To have the Derby favorite two years in a row and then running into a media storm two years in a row. It's impossible to make this stuff up."