Louisiana-based Cole Norman has been identified as the trainer responsible for a "milkshaking" incident in California that occurred July 31 at Del Mar.
There has been speculation about the identity of the trainer ever since the result of the total carbon dioxide reading was turned over to the California Horse Racing Board by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on Aug. 12.
Norman's horse – Top Commander, who ran fifth in the Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I) July 31 – was found to be well over the total carbon dioxide cutoff of 37 millimoles per liter, according to Dr. Rick Arthur, who heads California's TCO2 Testing Committee. In fact, Arthur said Top Commander's reading, which exceeded 39 millimoles, matched the highest since tracks started testing during the Oak Tree meeting last November.
"At 37, there can be some question (of how a horse reached that level)," Arthur said, "but at 39 no one will argue with you that the horse was milkshaked."
Following two meetings Wednesday at Del Mar, the committee withheld announcing Norman's penalty until the trainer is notified. Although Norman has been represented at all of the meetings, Arthur said the committee has not had direct contact with him. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club would issue a press release Thursday, he said.
The penalty issue is about jurisdiction. In previous cases since the Santa Anita Park meeting began in December, the committee has required a trainer who is in violation of TCO2 limits to place their entered horses in a race-day detention barn for a period of 30 days and also released details of the case publicly. Arthur said that the policy has been effective but since Norman doesn't stable in California he presents a problem.
"We have come to a decision," Arthur said. "Through all of this, our primary consideration has been to protect California racing and I feel (the penalty) does that."
State legislation that would give the CHRB the right to administer fines or take other action in TCO2 cases is pending.
Arthur noted that since the committee – a consortium of racetracks and racing organizations – has established the detention policy, the number of positives for excess levels of carbon dioxide has dropped drastically. At the recently concluded Hollywood Park spring/summer meeting, only one trainer, Mike Mitchell, was cited for a TCO2 positive.
"That's one positive from more than 4,000 tests," Arthur said. "It had been more than 5,000 tests since the last positive before that. We feel the policy has been very effective."
There have been five total positives in nine months. "Milkshaking" is believed to improve a horse's performance by reducing muscle fatigue caused by lactic acid.
Norman, 36, of Houghton, La., has been a trainer for 11 years, taking over the business from his father. A leading trainer on the Louisiana-Texas-Arkansas circuit, he ranks third nationally in total victories in 2005 with 182 through Aug. 15 and has a 29.5% win rate.