Updated on 03/07/2013 9:23AM

Zito to serve 15-day suspension for clenbuterol positive

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Nick Zito will begin serving a 15-day suspension next Monday as a result of a positive test for clenbuterol from a horse that won at Aqueduct on Feb. 24.

Nick Zito, the New York-based trainer currently running the bulk of his stable in Florida, will begin serving a 15-day suspension next Monday as a result of a positive test for clenbuterol from a horse that won at Aqueduct more than a year ago.

According to a notice posted on the New York State Gaming Commission website, the horse, Alvito, tested positive for an excessive level of the bronchial dilator after winning the fifth race Feb. 24, 2012, at Aqueduct. Zito was initially suspended for 30 days, but he waived his right to appeal and had the penalty reduced to 15 days, from March 11 to March 25, the notice said. He also was fined $1,000.

Zito could not be reached for comment Monday.

Prior to Zito notifying the commission late last week that he intended to waive his right to appeal, attorneys for the trainer and the commission were engaged in discussions over Zito’s options, accounting for the one-year delay in issuing the penalty, according to a commission official.

Clenbuterol is a popular bronchial dilator that is used therapeutically to treat horses with respiratory ailments. It also can be used to build muscle mass if it is administered to a horse regularly and frequently.

It also was learned Monday that trainer Wesley Ward is facing a 30-day suspension for a clenbuterol positive from a horse that ran at Belmont Park last summer. A notice on the gaming commission website said that Ward is appealing the positive, which was detected in post-race samples after Sunset Time finished third in the second race at Belmont on June 20, 2012.

Alvito would have been tested when the racing and wagering board was enforcing a rule that allowed horsemen to administer the drug outside of 96 hours of a race. Late last year, in order to address the possible abuse of the medication to build muscle, the board passed a rule prohibiting the drug within 21 days of a race, although that restriction was shortly thereafter amended to 14 days to align it with a national recommendation.

Zito is currently 13th in the trainer’s standings by money won at Gulfstream Park in Florida, where he races during the winters. Under a system called reciprocity, racing jurisdictions honor suspensions levied in other states.

Also on Monday, the commission said it had issued a 60-day suspension to trainer Luis Alvarez, effective March 1, for a violation of a rule prohibiting possession of a hypodermic needle or controlled substances. The posting on the website said that the violation turned up after a search of Alvarez’s barn on Feb. 14 of this year.

Alvarez has no wins from four starters at the current Aqueduct meet. He is not appealing the suspension.