02/27/2015 7:22PM

Trainer Avila handed 60-day ban, $10,000 fine


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer A.C. Avila has been suspended 60 days and fined $10,000 by the California Horse Racing Board after one of his runners tested in excess of the permitted level of the tranquilizer acepromazine, according to a statement published Friday on the racing board’s website.

The racing board reached the decision in a closed session of its monthly meeting at Santa Anita on Feb. 18, and referred the decision to Santa Anita stewards Scott Chaney, Kim Sawyer and Tom Ward to set the days of the penalty. Ward said on Friday that a ruling will be published next week, and that the suspension is expected to start on March 15.

Avila said in a phone interview on Friday that he plans to appeal any penalty.

Avila was cited for a post-race test taken from Masochistic after the gelding finished fifth in his career debut in a maiden race for California-breds at Santa Anita on March 15, 2014. On that day, the same board of stewards ordered that Masochistic be drug tested and that the racing board conduct an investigation into the manner of jockey Omar Berrio’s ride. The post-race drug test revealed the excessive level of acepromizine.

In their weekly written review of racing submitted to the racing board, the stewards wrote that they were “concerned Mr. Berrio prevented his horse from giving his best race.”

The stewards conducted an informal hearing with Berrio the day after the March 2014 race, but have not had a formal hearing or taken any action against the rider.

Avila said last summer that Masochistic was given a double-dose of acepromazine three days before his debut. The 61-year-old trainer had a hearing on the medication violation before an administrative law judge at Del Mar last summer. The administrative law judge later recommended a 30-day suspension and a $5,000 fine. The racing board rejected that proposal last December, and opted to double the penalties, the maximum fine and suspension allowed for such a medication violation. Acepromazine is a class 3 medication. Fines and suspensions are common for violations of medications in classes 1, 2, and 3.

Masochistic has won 3 of 5 starts and earned $177,050 in his career. After finishing fifth in his debut, he won three consecutive races – a maiden race and two optional claimers. He later finished second in the Los Alamitos Mile last September, but emerged from the race with a quarter crack, Avila said.

Saturday, Masochistic is the 4-5 favorite to win an optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs in the fifth race at Santa Anita. Masochistic races for Los Pollos Hermanos Racing and Santa Ines Stable.

Last April, the stewards disqualified Masochistic from the purse money of the March 2014 race, ordering that the fifth-place share of $1,120 be redistributed to Durango Flier, who finished sixth.