On April 6, two days after Gato Go Win was scratched from the Bay Shore Stakes (gr.III) at Aqueduct because the horse’s trainer, Jeff Mullins, was observed administrating an orally-injected substance to his horse in the detention barn, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board said the “matter is still in the hands” of the Aqueduct stewards.
Mullins, meanwhile, described the incident April 6 as a "honest mistake."
Joe Mahoney, a spokesperson for the NYSRWB, declined to speculate on what penalties or fines, if any, Mullins might incur as a result of the incident. Gato Go Win, who shipped to New York from Southern California to run in the Bay Shore, was scratched by the stewards after New York Racing Association personnel witnessed Mullins orally injecting his horse in the detention barn shortly before the field was brought over to the paddock for the Bay Shore, which went off at 4:14 p.m. EDT.
Mahoney said Mullins, who saddled I Want Revenge , winner of Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) later the same day, did not try to conceal what he was doing when he approached Gato Go Win to administer Air Power, an over-the-counter herbal cough formula, via a syringe (not a needle) into the horse’s mouth.
“(Gato Go Win) was under surveillance, and Mr. Mullins was in plain view of NYRA personnel,” Mahoney said. “From what we are told, (Mullins) was not hiding.”
In a statement issued April 8 concerning Mullins' actions and a separate incident in which owner Ernie Paragallo had not taken proper care of horses he owned, Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said: “Two recent incidents in New York are very troubling to the hundreds of thousands of responsible individuals who derive their livelihood from Thoroughbred breeding and racing and the millions of customers who participate in our game. In the case of trainer Jeff Mullins, regardless of how this incident is ultimately adjudicated, there is no excuse for not knowing or abiding by the New York rules of racing. In both instances, should the charges prove true, authorities should move swiftly to impose the most severe penalties applicable under the circumstances.”
Mullins said a bucket, which contained the Air Power, was on his person as he entered the security barn. He said NYRA personnel inspected the bucket, which also contained soap, a sponge, a dosing syringe, and nasal oinment.
After Mullins was cleared to go into the barn, he said he went into Gato Go Win's stall and administered the nasal ointment, a creme which he topically applied, and then gave the horse the Air Power. After NYRA personnel witnessed Mullins giving the Air Power, one of them asked him what it was. Minutes later, while the trainer was putting the bridle on the horse, a NYRA employee informed him Gato Go Win was going to be scratched.
"Then one of the stewards called me and said the horse was going to be scratched," Mullins said in reference to a conversation he had with NYRA steward Braulio Baeza Jr. "I said: 'You've got to be kidding me.' I took the bridle off, and then someone else comes up and says: 'Put the bridle on; you're running.' Then I was told: 'You're scratched.' "
Mullins said he has been using Air Power his entire training career. He didn't definitely say whether he planned to use Air Power on I Want Revenge. "I probably would have; but I can't say one way or another," he said.
Mullins said he wasn't in the security barn when I Want Revenge won Aqueduct's Gotham Stakes in March, and said he couldn't comment on whether the horse received Air Power prior to winning that race.
Gato Go Win is owned by the partnership of Dean De Renzo, Randy Hartley, Joey Platts, and William "Joe" Sims. Mullins said NYRA officials told the owners they would be reimbursed for all the nomination and entry fees associated with the Bay Shore.
Sims and Platts, who were at Aqueduct the day of the Bay Shore, were initially angry with Mullins because he said they were told by NYRA officials he attempted to smuggle in the Air Power under his coat and was caught.
"The owners were fuming," Mullins said. "Jack Sims wanted to whoop me. Then they found out (from Baeza) that I wasn't smuggling anything in. They are still not happy, but after the smoke has cleared, they know it was an honest mistake."
Mullins said he has no idea what the end result of the incident will be; he said he hasn't spoken to anyone at the NYSRWB or NYRA since April 4. He said he hired York-based attorney Karen Murphy.
Both Gato Go Win and I Want Revenge left New York by van April 6 for Churchill Downs.
Mullins breached NYSRWB rules by giving Air Power, an all-natural oral formula to control coughing in horses. Product details on Air Power claim it does not “test positive in a race or show jurisdiction.”
No medication (with the exception of the diuretic Salix), over-the-counter or otherwise, is permitted to be given in New York on race day. The possession of a syringe is also a violation of detention barn rules.
Mahoney said the syringe in question was confiscated, but he declined to say whether or not it would be tested.
Mahoney said I Want Revenge was also under surveillance, as is customary in the detention barn, and Mullins did not attempt to administer anything to the 3-year-old colt, whose impressive win in the Wood Memorial after a horrific start has stamped him the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).