02/11/2005 1:00AM

Trainers warned of stiffer penalties for positives


ARCADIA, Calif. - Calling the recent positive tests for bicarbonates "a blight on Southern California racing," veterinarian Rick Arthur told a group of trainers Friday that penalties will become more severe later this year when rules enforcing such positives are adopted by the California Horse Racing Board.

Arthur is a spokesman for a consortium of racing organizations that have enacted a policy of penalties against trainers who have horses test positive for high bicarbonate levels, or alkalizing agents, during the current Santa Anita meeting. The consortium comprises Santa Anita, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

Thursday, the consortium announced that trainer Jeff Mullins had a horse test positive for a high level of bicarbonates last month and that his horses will be placed in a detention barn for 24 hours before racing for the next 30 days.

The positive test was found in a blood test taken from Puppeteer, who finished second in the San Marcos Stakes on Jan. 22.

Currently, trainers who have horses test positive for high bicarbonates face three levels of penalties - surveillance or the placing of horses in detention barns for a first offense; a ban on entering horses for 15 days for a second offense; and revocation of stalls for a third offense.

Arthur said that when the CHRB enacts rules later this year, "it will be fines and suspensions and purse redistributions. I don't think they will be as easy to work with."

But Arthur admitted that the consortium is not treating all trainers the same. While Mullins's horses are being placed in detention, another trainer who had a horse test positive is facing no sanctions, as of now.

"He is not out of the dog house," Arthur said of the trainer, whom he refused to name. "I realize it seems a little inconsistent, but we're trying to work with the trainer on this."

Arthur and Dr. Scott Stanley of the University of California Davis spoke before a group of approximately 60 trainers assembled in a conference room at Santa Anita. Stanley explained the current testing procedures and urged trainers to avoid alkalizing agents in their feed programs. Arthur spoke of the test results, saying that data was available to show how numerous starters from certain trainers had tested.

He cited two unidentified examples - a Hall of Fame trainer and another person he described as a "problem trainer." Bicarbonate levels from the Hall of Fame trainer were well below the level of a positive, 37 millimoles per liter of plasma, ranging from 29 to 34, with an average of 31.

The "problem trainer" had an average of 34 millimoles, with some test results exceeding 38.

"We're looking at the data. We can see it," Arthur said. "The number of people who have more than 34 are few and far between."

The issue of bicarbonate testing has been at the forefront of California racing for the last seven months, since prerace testing began on an experimental basis at Del Mar. Arthur said that at Del Mar one in 10 horses tested positive for 39 millimoles or higher.

Bicarbonate levels have been such a widespread concern that some horsemen have called for a 24-hour detention barn in advance of racing.

"If you have a detention barn in a few years, there are a handful of people who will cause it," Arthur said.

"We can tell who has been naughty and who has been nice."

Fairplex proposes track expansion project

Fairplex Park officials made a presentation at the same meeting of horsemen on a $94 million proposed expansion of the racetrack and backstretch of the Pomona track.

Currently, Fairplex Park has a five-furlong track that is used 17 days annually at the Los Angeles County Fair. The track also serves as a training center

Officials want to expand the main track to one-mile and build a seven-furlong turf course and an infield training track with a circumference of 4 1/2 furlongs. In addition, there would be a major remodeling of the backstretch, with the construction of new barns in the vicinity of the stable area used on the Barretts sales grounds.

The expansion of the main track would take three years and be ready for the 2007 meeting. The construction of the training track and turf course, the remodeling of the barn area, and the renovation of the grandstand and other frontside buildings would be done after 2007.

In a unique feature, blueprints for the turf course and main track call for different configurations for the first and second turns. The first turn would be of a radius similar to a one-mile dirt track or a seven-furlong turf course, while the second turn would be more sweeping, similar to a track with a larger circumference such as Belmont Park.

James Henwood, the president of the Los Angeles County Fair, said that $60 million of the financing would need to come from industry sources. It has yet to be secured, he said.

Super High retired

Super High, the champion California-bred 3-year-old filly of 2002, has been retired, owner John Harris announced earlier this week.

A winner of 8 of 24 starts and $669,668, Super High, 6, will be bred to Victory Gallop this spring in Kentucky, but will return to California so the resulting foal can be registered as a California-bred in 2006.

By High Brite, Super High won the 2002 California Cup Distaff, missed most of 2003 because of injury, but returned to win two stakes in 2004 - the Work the Crowd Stakes at Golden Gate Fields and the Pro or Con Handicap at Santa Anita. In the latter race, she finished a nose in front of Moscow Burning, the 2004 California-bred horse of the year.