by Karen M. Johnson
Gary Sciacca was permitted to begin training horses in New York March 18 after serving a 120-day suspension under the trainer-responsibility rule.
Marina Market, Sciacca's first starter since the suspension began Nov. 19, 2007, provided the trainer with a prosperous return to work by winning the eighth race at Aqueduct March 20.
Sciacca, 48, was suspended by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for an incident nearly five years ago. Sciacca was vacationing in Grand Cayman June 28, 2003, when a New York Racing Association investigator said he saw veterinarian Dr. John McGuire; Sciacca’s assistant, Paul Barone; and stable foreman Oscar DeLeon prepare to administer Storm River Kelly sodium bicarbonate and electrolytes, commonly referred to as a “milkshake,” the morning the horse was scheduled to race. The horse was scratched.
Even though Sciacca, who has been training since 1981, wasn’t present at the time of the incident, he was found guilty under the trainer-responsibility rule. At the time of the incident, Sciacca said another horse in an adjacent stall was supposed to receive the milkshake, which is not permitted on race day.
Sciacca, who won two Belmont Park training titles in the 1990s and conditioned the champion 3-year-old filly of 1992, Saratoga Dew, said the suspension cost him business.
“It destroyed me,” Sciacca said March 20. “I lost about 15 horses; I have about 12 to 14 in the barn now. Some of my owners stuck by me, and that is great. At first I was bitter at the (racing board) because (Storm River Kelly) never received anything and tested negative. I was under the impression I was going to get a 30- to 45-day suspension, and the next thing I know, it is 120 days. But now I am ready to put this behind me.
“I’m hoping that I can gain new owners and that people will say, ‘Gee, that guy had a bad break; let’s give him a shot.’ ”
Barone, who also served a 120-day suspension for his role in the incident, returned to the track the week of March 9 and is working again as Sciacca’s assistant.
“I trust Paul and believe in him,” Sciacca said.