06/25/2002 11:00PM

Suspension for Prozac misuse upheld


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Kentucky Racing Commission has upheld a 150-day suspension for a little-known trainer whose client admitted to spiking a horse's feed with Prozac.

The commission, meeting Tuesday in Lexington, voted to maintain the suspension originally handed down in April for Bill Deaton, who trains off his farm in central Kentucky. Deaton's only outside client, the world-renowned hand surgeon Dr. Joseph Kutz, said he gave the trainer a bottle that had been tainted with Prozac, a medication used to treat depression in humans.

Deaton, 59, and Kutz, 74, both said the action was taken without Deaton's knowledge. Nevertheless, citing the universal trainer responsibility rule, the commission ruled to uphold the suspension.

Kutz, whose Louisville firm performed the first hand transplant in the United States three years ago, was ordered to appear at a commission hearing next month to determine the status of his owner's license. He already has served a 30-day suspension.

The subject horse, Explodo Red, finished second in a $7,500 claiming race at Turfway Park in February before testing positive for Prozac.

Prozac has a calming effect that Kutz believed may have helped Explodo Red, a nervous type, according to a letter Kutz sent to Kentucky steward Jack Middleton.

In other business, the commission instructed Louisville attorney Tim McCall to work with Thoroughbred tracks to avoid conflicts before he applies for an operator's license and for 2003 racing dates for the Quarter Horse track he hopes to build in rural Williamsburg, located in the southeastern region of Kentucky.

McCall and partner David Holloway want to build a $20 million track in Williamsburg, but Alex Waldrop, president of Churchill Downs, said the track would hurt business at nearby offtrack betting parlors in Corbin and Pineville. McCall responded by saying the new track did not intend to offer simulcasting of Thoroughbred racing.

The move to build a new facility is widely seen as a preemptive move in obtaining alternative gaming, for which the Kentucky racing industry will continue to lobby the state legislature. Williamsburg is located near the border of Tennessee, which does not allow gambling.

The commission also initiated proceedings that would outlaw the use of erythopoietin (EPO), a substance for which there is no current test. Officials in other major states such as California, New York and New Jersey also have moved to ban its usage.