01/05/2012 5:21PM

Winning horse at Aqueduct got Lasix by mistake


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – A horse who was mistakenly given a shot of the anti-bleeding medication Lasix won a race at Aqueduct last week unbeknownst to the betting public.

Summer Sunset won the second race at Aqueduct on Dec. 29 – a $25,000 claiming race for 2-year-old colts and geldings – by 6 3/4 lengths. Though he was not scheduled to receive Lasix – the only one of 74 horses entered for that day’s card not listed to get Lasix – Summer Sunset was mistakenly given a shot by a New York Racing Association veterinarian approximately 4 to 4 1/2 hours, the normal time frame, before the race. That fact was not discovered until after the race was made official, according to Carmine Donofrio, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board steward. The NYSRWB is conducting an investigation into the situation, Donofrio said.

Summer Sunset had not received Lasix in any of his four previous starts, including the previous two made in New York. Bettors use first-time Lasix as a key handicapping angle. Summer Sunset, who was beaten 50 3/4 lengths in an overnight stakes at Aqueduct in his race previous to Dec. 29, also wore blinkers for the first time in that race. He returned $11 for a $2 win wager.

Summer Sunset was trained by Karl Grusmark for owner Paul Braverman for that Dec. 29 race. He was claimed out of the race by trainer Dominic Galluscio for owner Francis Paolangeli. Galluscio said he was given the option of keeping or returning the horse, and opted to keep him.

“Because he won,’’ Galluscio said.

Grusmark declined to comment “until after we have a hearing and see what happens,’’ he said.

Summer Sunset could be disqualified from first-place and stripped of the $26,400 first-place purse.

Since January 2011, New York Racing Association vets have been responsible for the administering of Lasix. The reason behind this rule is to prohibit private veterinarians from entering a horse’s stall on race-day.

NYRA hired four veterinarians who administer Lasix each morning. According to NYRA officials, the vets are given two documents that guide them to horses which are to be given Lasix. The vets then meet after the second race daily to go over the paperwork, according to a NYRA spokesman. Since this happened in the second race, the mistake was not caught in time.

According to NYRA officials, the time frame for administering the Lasix is such that the veterinarians cannot meet until after the second race on a race day. The last post on an Aqueduct weekday card is 4:15 p.m., meaning horses cannot receive Lasix until 11:45 a.m. at the earliest. Many of the horses who race at Aqueduct are stabled at Belmont Park. Following the administration of Lasix, the vets have to drive to Aqueduct.

According to NYRA officials, since January 2011, there have been three instances in which a horse was scheduled to receive Lasix but was mistakenly not given the medication. In all three instances – each occurring in a race later than the second one on the card – the horse was scratched. NYRA officials said in the six months before January 2011, there were “many more errors than the four that have occurred,’’ NYRA spokesman Dan Silver said.

There was another instance in which a NYRA vet gave a horse Lasix against the trainer’s wishes because the trainer, Linda Rice, was going to scratch the horse and run the following day. Since the horse, Rajadesaminaux, was given Lasix for a race at Aqueduct on Nov. 19 – from which she scratched – she was ineligible to receive it for the Nov. 20 race, because horses cannot receive Lasix on consecutive days. Thus, when Rajadesaminaux ran on Nov. 20 she did so without Lasix and finished seventh as the 8-5 favorite.

This latest incident comes on the heels of NYRA being found to have, for a 15-month period, charged its bettors a takeout rate on certain wagers that was one-percentage point higher than allowed by law. NYRA has since reduced takeout by two percentage points on those wagers.

Asked if NYRA’s credibility with its customers was an issue, Silver said, “We stand behind our credibility. This was a mistake, but we feel we do a lot more than a number of tracks do to maintain our credibility with our races.’’