Updated on 09/17/2011 9:54AM

Sixth Contessa horse positive for ephedra


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Gary Contessa said Wednesday that a sixth horse trained by him has tested positive for the banned substance ephedra, which Contessa said is in a herbal vitamin supplement that he fed his horses.

The Aqueduct stewards confirmed the six positives.

Contessa said it's possible there could be more positives because the results from tests taken on horses he ran during the last several days in January at Aqueduct are not back from the Cornell University lab. On Feb. 1, the stewards informed Contessa about the first horse to test positive and, as a precaution, the trainer scratched eight horses he had entered to run that weekend.

Of the horses who tested positive, only one was a winner, according to Contessa, who, like the stewards, declined to identify the horses involved.

Contessa said he began giving many of the horses in his barn the supplement around the first of the year. He said he fed the same supplement to his stable last year at Monmouth Park and never had a test come back positive.

"I've been looking on the Internet and there are over 40 herbal products that have [ephedra's] metabolite," Contessa said. "It's in cough medicine, diet supplements - they have so many different uses. On the Internet, I found ephedra in 14,000 over-the-counter products."

In humans, ephedra, which contains stimulant properties, is used to treat asthma and arthritis, among other ailments.

Contessa has retained the legal services of Richard Engel, one of his owners, and said split samples have been sent for testing at an independent lab at the University of Louisiana.

Contessa said he read about other ephedra cases in this country and England where the trainers were not harshly penalized and the incidents were characterized as environmental contamination.

"I haven't a clue how NYRA will handle this," Contessa said. "It's completely out of my hands right now."

Stacy Clifford, a spokesperson for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, said the investigation is ongoing and no rulings would be issued until the process is complete and the stewards make their recommendations to the board.

Contessa, who didn't run any horses on Wednesday, is tied for the lead in the trainer standings at the inner track meet with Richard Dutrow Jr. Contessa saddled his last winner on Jan. 29.

John Little returns

John Little, who went on a tear here last winter, returns in Friday's eighth race, a $56,000 classified allowance.

Eight older males entered the one-mile race, which will be run around two turns.

Trained and owned by Deborah Bodner, John Little won three consecutive allowance races on the inner track last winter. In April, he became a stakes winner in the Grade 3 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap. He tailed off in the summer and finished sixth in his last start in the Skip Away at Monmouth Park on June 30.

Heberto Castillo Jr. rides John Little, who drew post 2.

My Man Ryan could be the horse to beat. Trained by Pat Reynolds, My Man Ryan has been in good form at this meet and catches a softer field than he faced in his last couple of starts. Richard Migliore rides.

Say Florida Sandy is highweight

Say Florida Sandy, who went over $2 million in earnings when he finished second in last month's Paumonok, will be the 122-pound starting highweight in Sunday's $75,000 Hollie Hughes, a race he won in 2001.

Say Florida Sandy, a 9-year-old New York-bred, was beaten a half-length by Crossing Point, the gate-to-wire winner of the Paumonok.

Say Florida Sandy, who hasn't won a stakes since September 2001, has come close on several occasions to providing his trainer, Victor Cuadra, with the first stakes win of his career. Cuadra, 34, began training Say Florida Sandy in the spring of 2002, but he was already familiar with the horse because he worked as the assistant to Say Florida Sandy's previous trainer, Juan Serey.

"To win a stakes would be beautiful, but my main priority is that my Sandy keeps running well and stays healthy," Cuadra said. "I've been around him for awhile and I know everything he wants and has on his mind."

Nominees for top trainer

The New York Thoroughbred Breeders released its nominees for top trainer of New York-breds in 2002. They are H. James Bond, Gary Contessa, Richard Dutrow Jr., Michael Ferraro, Jimmy Jerkens, and Todd Pletcher.

Voting conducted by NYTB's racing committee will determine the winner, who will be announced at an awards dinner on April 1 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany, N.Y. Divisional champions and Horse of the Year also will be revealed at the banquet.

The NYTB also created a new award for the leading jockey of New York-breds. The 2002 nominees are Shaun Bridgmohan, Javier Castellano, John R. Davila Jr., John A. Grabowski, Aaron Gryder, Mike Luzzi, Richard Migliore, Jose Santos, Edgar Prado, and John R. Velazquez.

* Saturday's $75,000 Dearly Precious kicks off Presidents' Day weekend at Aqueduct. Among the 3-year-old fillies pointing to the six-furlong Dearly Precious are Ruthless winner Lizzy Cool and Harford Ghost, an impressive-looking winner of an allowance race here on Jan. 18.

* Trainer Jennifer Leigh-Pedersen was fined $2,000 by the stewards for altering the date on a Coggins test, a health certificate that must be updated yearly for horses to gain entrance at NYRA tracks.

* Unswept, a nominee to the $75,000 Best Turn Stakes on Feb. 22, worked Wednesday at Aqueduct. The New York-bred, who finished third in the Fred "Cappy" Capossela on Jan. 20, covered three furlongs in 35.44 seconds.

* John G. Dooley, track announcer at Arlington Park, will be filling in for John Imbriale for four days, beginning on Friday.