Updated on 08/14/2014 4:30PM

Sheppard fined after two horses test positive for methocarbamol


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard has been fined $2,000 and assigned one point under Delaware’s multiple medication violation system for two separate positives for the muscle relaxant methocarbamol at Delaware Park this summer, according to stewards’ rulings.

Two $1,000 fines were levied July 30 after samples from two horses who finished first in races at Delaware tested positive for the drug, which is allowed to be administered up to 72 hours prior to a race in Delaware as one of 26 recognized therapeutic medications in the state. Both horses – Another Surprise, who finished first in a $20,000 maiden-claiming race May 28, and Comancheria, who won a $20,000 maiden-claiming race June 9 – were disqualified, and purse money was redistributed.

Sheppard waived his right to have a split sample tested, according to the records. The stewards cited “mitigating circumstances” for declining to assign a second point for the Comancheria positive, according to the records. Delaware is one of the first states to implement the points-based multiple violation system, which applies higher penalties to trainers if they exceed certain points thresholds in a year.

John Wayne, the executive director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, said Sheppard was not assigned additional points for the second positive because he was notified of both positives at the same time. Commissions have often waived additional penalties for trainers when notified of multiple positives under the theory that the trainer was unable to correct any barn practices that may have led to the first positive.

Wayne also said that Sheppard’s positives were not likely to be related to an unanticipated effect of using the drug in combination with phenylbutazone, or bute, a regulated painkiller. Earlier this spring and summer, regulators in Pennsylvania and Delaware began issuing warnings to trainers to be cautious when using the two drugs in combination, under the belief that methocarbamol was eliminated more slowly from a horse’s system when used with bute. The warning said trainers should use methocarbamol no closer than 96 hours to a race if they planned to also administer bute within that time frame.

Alan Foreman, who represented Sheppard in his stewards' hearing, said Sheppard believed a stable employee had mistakenly administered the drug to one of the horses within or close to the withdrawal time of 72 hours. The other horse had come off of Sheppard's farm, and Sheppard did not know how the drug turned up, Foreman said.

Foreman said Sheppard regularly administers methocarbarmol to horses after workouts or gate work to treat soreness, but that he does not administer bute, ruling out the possibility that bute interfered with the elimination of the drug.

"You accept the penalty, and you move on," Foreman said.

Sheppard trains for one of the most outspoken critics of medication in racing, George Strawbridge. Sheppard also was fined for a methocarbamol positive last year at Parx Racing near Philadelphia. Another Surprise is owned by Sheppard, while Comancheria is owned by Elizabeth Barr.

GQ More than 1 year ago
Can I have my money back for that particular race? Didn't think so. Wonder why no one goes.
DavidM9999 More than 1 year ago
It seems it is always "stable help" that made the mistake. Jonathon should offer no public excuses as those ring hollow. Take the fine and penalty.Then make the appropriate changes to your operation while training up your "stable help". Owner Strawbidge's reaction is worth following. Shephard's vast body of work in playing by the rules means something to this one gambler but I admit this is surprising news.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Stupid rule anyway. Sheppard is an amazing horseman and trainer. Whatever he and his vet thinks will help the horse, they should be allowed to use. I will never understand why folks think these athletes shouldn't be allowed to use medication. If anyone who doesn't like medication got off what they are taking, then I might listen to them. If no medication was allowed, the NFL wouldn't even exist. If you are an animal rights activist then you should even be for more medications. Whatever helps these amazing animals feel better , I say let them use it.
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Frank you are right. He is a good horseman and he did accept the penalty without appeal. Sometimes this just happens for whatever reason. There are times a stable person just makes an error. I tend to think that thoroughbred racing trainers delegate responsibility more so than when I was in the harness racing industry. I was a do it all yourself operation. Owner, trainer etc.
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
Imagine the outrage if this is Pletcher or Baffert, and not Sheppard? Just sayin'...
Joe Rockhold More than 1 year ago
So where do I get my refund for my horse finishing 2nd to these drugged horses?
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
How do you know that a tinge of muscle relaxant made your horse finish 2nd. Had you backed it up for place you would have won something. My Dad always said, if a horse can finish 2 he can win so back up your bets, I play WP and with exactas I reverse then sometimes for a buck if I am more sure of the primary bet.
BigSkyEquine More than 1 year ago
Racing Commissioners are mostly former trainers and owners, and that's where their allegiance lies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do you always drive within the speed limit ? Do you ever make a mistake ? Mr. sheppard's record has been impeccable for many many years. That comes in to consideration.
TheRaiderFan More than 1 year ago
So this has had three violations for this same drug in the last year? Why is he still training?