10/30/2009 12:00AM

NYRA bans Mullins for six months

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Michael Amoruso
Since trainer Jeff Mullins's penalty comes from NYRA and not the state board, he is unlikely to be barred in other jurisdictions.

California-based trainer Jeff Mullins will be prohibited from starting a horse at the New York Racing Association's Aqueduct racetrack for the next six months under a penalty imposed by the association for an incident in Aqueduct's race-day security barn in April, NYRA announced Friday.

The penalty is being imposed by the association under its rights as the operator of a private property, and not the state's racing and wagering board. As a result, it is unlikely that other racing jurisdictions will impose reciprocal penalties on Mullins, as is typically the case when state racing commissions hand down suspensions.

On April 4, NYRA's stewards scratched a Mullins-trained horse, Gato Go Win, from the Bay Shore Stakes after Mullins was found in Aqueduct's race-day security barn with an empty dose syringe. According to racing officials and Mullins's testimony at the time, Mullins had used the syringe to orally administer an over-the-counter product, Air Power, to the horse.

Air Power is marketed as a cough suppressant by its manufacturer, the equine-product company Finish Line; the company's website claims that the product "will not test," in reference to whether post-race drug tests will detect any of its ingredients. It contains honey, apple cider, vinegar, aloe vera, menthol, oil of eucalyptus, lemon juice, and ethyl alcohol, according to Finish Line.

It is illegal in New York to administer any substance in the security barn except the legal raceday diuretic Lasix, which must be administered by a state veterinarian. Two weeks after the incident, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board suspended Mullins for seven days, a penalty he did not contest.

Mullins could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

Mullins is based in California, and during his career, he has started horses in only five races at New York tracks. All were graded stakes races. Three were in 2005, and two were earlier this year, by the same horse, I Want Revenge, winner of the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes and Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes, both at Aqueduct.

According to the order issued by NYRA, Mullins will be banned from Aqueduct for the length of the penalty. In addition, Mullins will be prohibited from transferring his horses to other trainers as a means of attempting to start a horse at Aqueduct during the ban, according to the order.

Karen Murphy, Mullins's attorney, said that the trainer did not plan to take any legal action contesting the order, though she characterized the penalty as "grossly irresponsible, wasteful, and unnecessary" while criticizing NYRA for spending money on pursuing the penalty.

"If anyone should sue, it should be the betting public, because they are being deprived of seeing the best horses in California start in a failing racing jurisdiction," Murphy said.

Mike Marten, a spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board, said Friday afternoon that the CHRB has yet to receive any official notice of a suspension from New York.

"Until we do, it would be premature to discuss issues of reciprocity and whether it applies," Marten said.

In its order, the association said it believed it was necessary to impose the additional penalty because testimony provided by Mullins during the investigative process conflicted with other witnesses, including an employee of his barn. In addition, Mullins had initially denied bringing the syringe into the security barn.

Neil Getnick, NYRA's integrity counsel, said the six-month penalty was appropriate because Mullins has attempted to start only three horses in New York over the past year, and all three horses were entered at Aqueduct. The Aqueduct meet started this week and it will close in early May, approximately six months later.

"We think it's a meaningful penalty imposed in a meaningful manner," Getnick said.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen