04/15/2016 5:01PM

Preciado to challenge clenbuterol rulings; granted stay of ejection


This article was posted Friday evening and updated Saturday afternoon.

Facing a 270-day suspension for clenbuterol positives at Parx Racing, trainer Ramon Preciado has decided to challenge the rulings against him rather than turn in his trainer's license as he had considered earlier in the week, according to Thomas Pfender, Preciado's Philadelphia-based attorney

Preciado had six clenbuterol positives during 2015 – two in February at Parx, two in late summer at Delaware Park, and two in the fall at Parx.

The Pennsylvania Racing Commission is conducting an investigation into Preciado’s two latest clenbuterol positives. George Lobley, the commission’s track manager at Parx, is conducting the investigation.

"Mr. Lobley wouldn’t reveal to me where they’re at with the investigation,” Pfender said, “but there is suspicion growing that the investigation will reveal there is sabatoge involved, possibly by an employee of Ramon’s.”

On Saturday, Lobley said, "At this point the commission is unable to comment on this matter as the investigation is ongoing."

If someone were found to be tampering with Preciado's horses, he would ultimately still be responsible under the absolute insurer rule in racing.

“We understand the owner-trainer responsibility rules, but there may be mitigating circumstances here,” Pfender said.

Last weekend, Preciado was notified by Parx management that he would no longer be allowed to enter horses at the Bensalem, Pa., track. He also was told he was being ruled off and that as of April 16, he would no longer be allowed on the grounds.

Pfender appealed Preciado's ejection to the Pennsylvania Commission on Friday afternoon and on Saturday said that Preciado had been granted a writ of supersedeas, or a stay of legal proceedings. Preciado is now allowed access to the track and can care for and train his horses. Parx is not accepting entries from him.

Complicating matters is that Parx is in the midst of an equine herpesvirus quarantine and horses are not allowed to leave the grounds. The quarantine will last through mid-May at least.

"Pending appeals, Ramon has access to the track," Pfender said. "The quarantine is a problem because he can't remove his horses. If he could, he would. He has a loyal group of owners."

Last Monday, Preciado transferred his 58 horses to Chloe Bradley, who went 2 for 7 at Gulfstream Park last winter while she was training Preciado’s horses while he served a 21-day suspension for the two clenbuterol positives at Delaware Park. Bradley was granted stall space at Parx on Monday and entered Farmer Brown in Saturday’s seventh race. On Tuesday, she entered two horses for Sunday.

The Parx stewards in a written decision have since decided not to honor Bradley’s Florida training license. She will be required to take a trainer’s test and go through the Pennsylvania licensing process, which is expected to take several weeks. Her Saturday and Sunday entrants will be scratched, according to Sam Elliott, the director of racing at Parx.

Preciado’s clenbuterol positives began Feb. 23 at Parx, when two of his horses tested positive. He was fined $1,500 in each instance.

For his first clenbuterol positive Aug. 26 at Delaware Park, Preciado was fined $500 and suspended seven days. For the second positive, on Sept. 12, Preciado was fined $1,000 and suspended 14 days.

“Since I had the positive tests at Delaware over the summer, I have not had any clenbuterol in my barn,” Preciado said. “I don’t have an explanation for what has happened with these other positives. But it is making me sick. Every time I win a race, I get nervous wondering if the horse will come back positive.”

Clenbuterol is a therapeutic medication administered orally as a syrup that acts as a bronchialdilator. It also has steroidal properties that can help build muscle mass in horses. Horsemen are allowed to use clenbuterol when training, but it has a recommended withdrawal time of 14 days before a horse races. In a post-race urine test, clenbuterol of more than 140 picograms per milliliter is considered a positive.

On Oct. 24 at Parx, Seventeenohsix, who finished second, was found to have 260 picograms per millililiter of clenbuterol in his system, according to Pfender. Preciado was fined $2,500 and suspended 90 days.

On Nov. 8 at Parx, Pfender said tests showed that Flattering Tales, who had won, had 218 picograms per milliliter of clenbuterol in her system. Preciado was fined $5,000 and suspended 180 days.

Pfender appealed both rulings, and Preciado was granted a stay of the suspensions. A date has not yet been set for an appeals hearing.

Pfender said he understands that Preciado may have additional clenbuterol positives coming.

“The question is, ‘Is Ramon a moron, or is something else going on here?’ ” Pfender said. “Anyone who knows Ramon will tell you he is not stupid. He is a winning trainer who has been around for many years. To think that he would be getting these positives and continue to administer clenbuterrol incorrectly is hard to believe.

“Does anyone think he would be doing this to win races, only to have the purses taken away and be fined and suspended for the overages?”

Preciado is a controversial figure at Parx, where he has been the leading trainer the past two years. He wins at a high percentage and has a record of improving horses he claims from other trainers.

Preciado is 28 for 89 this year, a 31 percent win rate. He is 23 for 51 at the Parx meet, which began Feb. 27, a 45 percent win average, and leads the trainer standings by nine wins.

With his final starters at Parx, last Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, Preciado won nine straight races in which he had an entrant.