Something strange seems to be going on in Island racing lately.
A pair of suspensions have been handed out to trainers in the Maritimes lately, only to be later taken back with the Maritime Province’s Harness Racing Commission, saying a mistake has been made. Last week, trainer Jonah Moase, 17, of Warren Grove was given a $1,500 fine and a six-month suspension after Dirt Track Momma, one of his trainees, allegedly tested positive for Lidocaine, a Class 1 positive (the most severe), after a race in Charlottetown. Lidocaine is a strong pain killer if used in a pure form, but also appears in over the counter anesthetics like Polysporin. Dirt Track Momma, who was also suspended, was then scratched from her race last Saturday in Charlottetown, where she was the favourite in the $2,200 fillies and mares open, and Moase’s suspension was posted on the national suspension board Monday. Early this week, Moase was informed by the racing commission that a mistake was made and Dirt Track Momma was not the horse that the test was collected from at all. Moase’s suspension was then lifted.
The commission’s director of racing, Dr. Paul Hogan, is unsure what occurred.
“We’re still trying to determine what took place and information will be released as it becomes available,” Hogan said Wednesday. “We’re working very closely with the (Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency) to determine what went on. Until that happens, we have nothing further to say.”
After having the horse scratched from her race and his name tarnished, at least momentarily, Moase has a strong argument to receive the equivalent of the winning cheque from that race, as well as restitution for defamation of character. How an organization funded by the taxpayers of the three Maritime provinces can deal with participants like this is a question that needs to be asked.
Then, this week a Class 1 suspension was handed out to New Brunswick trainer Allan Jones for Maritime Breeder’s champion Ramblinglily, for an Atlantic Sires Stakes race Old Home Week, for Lidocaine (same as Moase originally). Also, another New Brunswick trainer was to be given a suspension for a positive test, until it was realized that it was not the right horse, and the Class 4 positive penalty was instead given to Island trainer Duncan MacKay for Donna Conda during Old Home Week for 15 days and $200. MacKay’s suspension, which he has appealed, is for DMSO, a substance used to tighten legs between races, far from performance enhancing. Also, starting today leading Island driver Marc Campbell will serve a 31-day suspension for a Class 4 positive test, and he will be unable to drive for that period as well.
Ask anyone who knows Island racing and they will tell you there is not a drug problem here. None of these positives are for steroids or serious blood builders, which there is no place for harness racing. But regardless of that, the real question is how many of these tests are even correct? The CPMA, through the racing commission, handed out two suspensions just to retract them, with obvious confusion within the commission into what the actual results of testing are. When asked about the situation with both Dirt Track Momma and Ramblinglily, Hogan declined further comment. The commission is offering no explanation of how they ascertained that MacKay’s and Jones’ horses actually tested positive, and if Campbell’s positive test is even correct.
The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA) is governed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada out of Ottawa and is responsible for the testing of horses for prohibited substances at racetracks whether the races they hold are Standardbred, Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse. Patrick Girard, communications officer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, says once a sample is obtained from a horse post-race, the sample is sealed, labeled and placed in a box with other samples from that race day. The box is then locked and sealed with a uniquely numbered identification band, and shipped to a lab in British Columbia for analysis.
“The label on the sample contains only the track name, date, sample number, the sex and age of the horse and, in the cases when the sample has been collected under a special program, a letter identifying the program,” Girard said. “The horse's name and other identifying information, cross-referenced to the sample number, is retained securely at the track.”
When a test comes positive the lab sends the CPMA a certificate, who in turn informs the provincial racing commission.
“The certificate states the drug name, sample ID number, and other relevant information. The certificate does not state the name of the horse or trainer.”
Girard says there are processes in place to keep false positives from happening.
To me, there are far too many unanswered questions as to what is going on, to make people serve suspensions which may later have to be rescinded. The people of the Maritimes deserve more from a public body, and the entire issue should be investigated thoroughly before anyone is made to serve any time. Considering the legal implications of Moase’s predicament, the commission needs to be very careful how each case is handled. For now, we will wait to see what Hogan finds out.
Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Charlottetown Driving Park:
1 – Brenda Rose
2 – Oh To Be Me
3 – Anita Blossom
4 – Tempo Seelster
5 – Shock The Rock
6 – Seawind Rianna
7 – Albert Town
8 – Watersides Kipper
9 – Pinner
10 – Dirt Track Momma
11 – Toad River
12 – Balanchine
13 – Doll R General
(Nicholas Oakes’ column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.)