Thoroughbred trainer Gary Sciacca was suspended for four months and two of his employees and a Belmont Park veterinarian were handed stringent penalties Wednesday by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board over milkshaking charges stemming from last year.
The case drew headlines when longtime Sciacca assistant Paul Barone, stable foreman Oscar De Leon and veterinarian Jack McGuire were arrested by Nassau County police and charged with tampering of a sports contest. The charges, later dropped, came after an investigator at Belmont said he saw a substance being illegally administered to one of Sciacca's horses on June 28, 2003.
Sciacca was out of the country at the time of the incident. He told the New York Daily News
at the time that the wrong horse, Storm River Kelly, was mistakenly given a treatment of electrolytes -- not a banned substance -- that had been intended for a horse in an adjacent stall.
But state racing regulators did not accept their claims. Sciacca, who under state racing rules is responsible for the conduct of his employees, with whom he had daily contact even when he was out of the country, was suspended for 120 days, as was Barone. De Leon was suspended for 45 days. McGuire was given the most serious penalty -- a 180-day suspension and $1,000 fine. The suspension periods were all far longer than originally imposed by the racing steward.
"The board felt that this was a serious case that exhibited blatant violation of the rule,'' said board spokeswoman Stacy Clifford. "And they stated that there was no therapeutic or other value to administer a milkshake to a horse on a race day other than to affect performance.''
Storm River Kelly had been entered in a maiden race that day, but was scratched by stewards.