09/26/2012 2:19PM

Quarter Horse trainer Bassett handed 10-year ban for dermorphin positives


The New Mexico Racing Commission has banned a leading Quarter Horse trainer for 10 years after two horses he trained tested positive for the powerful painkiller dermorphin.

John H. Bassett, who has trained two winners of the $2 million All American Futurity, was handed the ban Saturday and also was fined $10,000 and ordered to return purse money from the races where the horses tested positive. The 10-year ban is the maximum that the racing commission could levy.

Dermorphin is a powerful opioid that is derived from a toxin produced by some species of South American tree frogs. Several states began calling multiple positives for dermorphin this summer after testing labs put in place new procedures designed to detect the drug. The positives have been concentrated in New Mexico and Louisiana, where the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse communities intermingle. Since the initial positive tests, no new positives are believed to have turned up, although 15 positives are believed to have been found in Oklahoma.

Supporters of stiff penalties for drug violators have challenged racing commissions to levy harsh sanctions against trainers whose horses have tested positive for the drug. On Thursday and Friday, the Louisiana Racing Commission is scheduled to conduct hearings for nine trainers whose horses have tested positive for dermorphin. The positive tests, 11 in all, were returned from four Thoroughbreds and seven Quarter Horses. The trainers were initially given six-month suspensions by racing stewards, the maximum penalty that stewards can dole out, but commission officials have said they will seek to suspend the trainers for as long as five years for each positive test.

The two Bassett horses tested positive after running in trials May 25 for the $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity. Seven other horses also tested positive for dermorphin after the trials, and their cases have yet to be heard.

The New Mexico Racing Commission also suspended Quarter Horse trainer Carl Draper for six months after four of his horses tested positive for the synthetic steroid ractopamine after trials for the Ruidoso Futurity and Ruidoso Derby. Three of the horses were owned or co-owned by racing commissioner Ray Willis and his wife, Lola.