A three-member panel of the Emirates Racing Authority on Monday heard the appeal of the connections of Brass Hat over the gelding's disqualification of his second-place finish in this year's Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
During an international teleconference hearing Monday, the major U.S. principals were gathered in the Frankfort, Ky., law office of William Johnson, while the ERA representatives were half a world away in Dubai. Following the two-hour hearing, in which owner Fred Bradley, trainer Buff Bradley, and three veterinarians – Dr. Thomas Eric French, Dr. Tom Tobin, and Dr. Doug Berry -- addressed the three-member appeals panel, the matter was adjourned until Tuesday, June 27. Johnson represents the Bradleys.
At issue is the disqualification of Brass Hat, forfeiture of the $1.2 million runner-up purse, and a $5,400 fine against trainer Bradley after tests revealed trace amounts of the drug methyl prednisolone acetate. Following the DQ of Brass Hat, who finished 1 1/2 lengths behind winner Electrocutionist, Wilko was moved up to second.
The Brass Hat connections contend that they did everything within the parameters of the rules while the ERA representatives contend the post-race test constituted a violation of their racing rules.
Neither side disputes that post-race tests on the 5-year-old Prized
gelding detected a level of 5.47 nanograms per milliliter of the therapeutic medication. However, trainer Bradley contends that the corticosteroid was last administered to Brass Hat 28 days before the World Cup, a period that is well within the withdrawal time of a set of guidelines listed on the sheet of "Dubai Equine Hospital Medication Withdrawals." Bill Greely, a former president of the Keeneland Association of who was acting as a representative of the ERA, gave Bradley the list while the trainer was considering whether to send Brass Hat to Dubai.
At the outset of Monday's hearing, ERA appeals panel chairman Keith Stack objected to the presence in Johnson's office of a reporter from The Blood-Horse
magazine and one from the Lexington Herald-Leader
. Johnson said neither he nor his clients objected to the reporters listening to the proceedings, noting there was considerable interest in the case from the international horse racing community. Saying that having media representatives attend hearings was inconsistent with how ERA conducts its business, Stack said, "We are not content..." with having the media present for the hearing.
The hearing continued after the media representatives left Johnson's conference room.
Berry said he testified Monday that he followed the "explicit guidelines" outlined on the ERA withdrawal document. "There is no question as to what was done," said Berry, adding that it "would be considered a rarity" for methyl prednisolone acetate to remain in a horse's system for 28 days. He added, however, that "the clearance times for therapeutic medications is very large."
Johnson said Berry told the appeals board that he reviewed the withdrawal guidelines from the ERA, and it was his opinion it was safe to medicate the horse 28 days before the race. "He was very surprised it showed up" in the horse's post-race test and that the small amount of the medication present would have had no effect on Brass Hat's performance.
Since this case arose, Berry has conducted withdrawal time tests on methyl prednisolone acetate and found it has remained in the horse's system for up to 44 days following administration, according to Johnson. "This would indicate that, if anyone is going to use this form any more, they ought to revise it," Johnson said.
Johnson said trainer Bradley told the appeals panel that Brass Hat was subject to strict security measures while transported to, and while in, Dubai for the World Cup; and there is no question that the amount of the medication found in the post-race test was a result of the administration 28 days prior to the race.
"Buff testified he believed it was safe to give this medication and, while he believed that it would not show up post-race (based upon the withdrawal times outlined on the Dubai Equine Hospital Medication Withdrawals list), if he had known the Dubai authorities would contend that if you comply with our letter and it (medication) shows up post-race, he would not have taken his horse over there," Johnson said.
Johnson said Tobin testified that he believed the ERA document containing the withdrawal times indicated that it was OK to comply with it and that by doing so "you would not violate the rules of racing instructions of the Emirates Racing Association."
Johnson said the ERA contends that the medication withdrawal list "does not have the blessing of the Emirates Racing Association."
French, who was sent the withdrawal times document by Bradley because the veterinarian had treated horses who previously went to Dubai, reiterated Berry's position that he thought it was safe to administer the drug 28 days prior to the race.
Johnson said the second day of the hearing would likely consist of the appeals panel's decision on whether to uphold the original disqualification, whether to overturn the stewards' decision, or whether to seek additional information from the Brass Hat side of the issue.
Regardless of whether his clients secure a favorable decision from the appeal panel, Johnson said one positive outcome would likely be a major revision of the list of withdrawal times or ERA's discontinuation of using the list altogether.