12/10/2010 12:29PM

Purse money returned in Oaklawn Handicap case

Shawn Coady/Coady Photography
It's a Bird was disqualified from victory in the 2009 Oaklawn Handicap after he tested positive for naproxen.

The estate of Edmund Gann has returned the purse It’s a Bird earned for his win in last year’s Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap to bring a close to the high-profile disqualification case that had been ongoing since the summer of 2009.

It’s a Bird tested positive for naproxen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, following the April 2009 race. He was disqualified by the Arkansas Racing Commission during a hearing in July 2009 and the winning purse was ordered redistributed. The horse’s connections appealed to circuit court, and in September 2010 a judge upheld the commission’s decision. There was not a further appeal, and the purse earnings, which had been paid out shortly after the Oaklawn Handicap, were returned last week to the Arkansas Racing Commission.

The case has prompted an amendment to the state’s racing rules that was adopted by the commission on Wednesday. The amendment allows for purse money earned in graded races to be withheld “until the chemical analysis of postrace blood or urine samples has cleared the test lab, even if the testing takes more than the normal 96-hour time limit currently in the rules.”

Gann’s estate returned its $260,000 portion of the Oaklawn Handicap purse to the commission this past week, according to Byron Freeland, an attorney representing the panel. The purse portion earned by It’s a Bird’s trainer and jockey has also been returned, and the $300,000 in funds are being redistributed to the connections of Runforthedoe, who was second to It’s a Bird and then elevated to first as a result of the disqualification.

Arkansas has a zero-tolerance policy on naproxen, which is a Class 4 medication violation. It’s a Bird was retired in January of this year, and Gann died a month later, at age 86. The horse’s wins included the Sunshine Millions Classic, the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap, and the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap.