12/03/2003 1:00AM

Shuman fined for positive


New York stewards have fined trainer Mark Shuman $5,000 for the presence of the drug celecoxib in the postrace urine of Askara, a 6-year-old mare who finished second in the fifth race at Belmont Park on Sept. 17.

Celecoxib is the active ingredient in Celebrex, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory most closely associated with the treatment of arthritis in humans.

The stewards also suspended Shuman 20 days for an alleged steroid injection given to the same horse too close to race day. Shuman has appealed both penalties and may continue to run horses at Aqueduct while the matter is pending.

Askara, owned by the nation's leading owner, Mike Gill, was beaten by three-quarters of a length in the $50,000 claiming race at Belmont.

Shuman said that he does train horses on celecoxib but that he stopped giving Askara the medication seven days before the race. He said the drug is classified similar to Butazolidin and that seven days should be more than enough time for it to be out of a horse's system.

Shuman was disturbed that when he asked for a split sample to be tested, "they told me they don't know what happened to my split sample," he said.

Shuman said the steroid injection given to Askara was given five days before the race, the permitted out time frame. The stewards said they went by records supplied by the veterinarian, which indicated the injection had been given four days out. But Shuman said that the vet's billing records may have shown when the bill was processed, not when the injection was given.

"You can't give a trainer days based on a vet's billing records," Shuman said.