Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher has been ordered to serve a 10-day suspension and pay a $25,000 fine by the California Horse Racing Board as a result of a procaine violation for Wait a While in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT).
The board is requiring that Pletcher begin serving the penalty and pay the fine by Feb. 20.
Meeting in closed executive session prior to its monthly meeting Jan. 15 at Santa Anita Park, the CHRB adopted a recommendation of hearing officer Steffan Imhoff sent to the regulatory agency a month earlier. It announced the decision in a press release issued Jan. 21.
Pletcher was handed a 60-day suspension in the Wait a While case, with all but 10 of the days stayed on the condition that Pletcher has no further drug penalties for a one-year probationary period.
A complaint was originally filed against Pletcher by the CHRB Dec. 4, 2008. The Maddy equine testing laboratory at the University of California-Davis reported that a sample taken from Wait a While following her third-place finish in the Oct. 24, 2008 race at Santa Anita exceeded the regulatory threshold for the local anesthetic procaine. The finding was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Equine Research Laboratory.
The substance is found in procaine penicillin G, a commonly used antibiotic in horses and is a Class 3 violation, unlike most other local anesthetics, which are treated as Class 2 abuses.
The hearing on the complaint was held at Del Mar on July 27-28 before Imhoff, who closed the record in the case Nov. 17 after receiving final written briefs. Imhoff's Dec. 17 decision is posted on the CHRB Web site.
In it, Imhoff concluded, “The fact that the drug violation occurred in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf requires that the maximum suspension under (CHRB) Rule 1843.2 of 60 days be imposed. However, the offense is somewhat mitigated because we find that Pletcher was treating Wait a While with Procaine Penicillin G on the recommendation of his veterinarian and that the treatment was terminated 18 days before the race. If, as we believe, another Procaine injection was given shortly before the race, there is no evidence to suggest that this was done by Pletcher, or on his behalf.
"Therefore, we hold that Pletcher should be placed on one-year probation and that all but 10 days of his 60-day suspension should be stayed. As to a fine, a drug violation in a $2,000,000 race demands a substantial one. The maximum of $10,000 under (CHRB) Rule 1843.2 is insufficient. However, the $50,000 fine requested by the attorney general is too high. We will be imposing, under (California) Business & Professions Code Section 19582 a) (3) (A) a fine of $25,000.”
New CHRB chairman Keith Brackpool commented: “The Board agrees with Judge Imhoff that this violation in a Breeders’ Cup race demands the maximum penalty. The CHRB had requested a 60-day suspension and a $50,000 fine. The judge granted a 60-day suspension and a still substantial $25,000 fine. While the judge agreed with our recommendation on the suspension, the judge granted a stay of 50 days provided Mr. Pletcher does not have any Class 1, 2, or 3 violations or equivalent in any racing jurisdiction in North America for one year.
"While the Board disagrees that mitigating circumstances in the case warrant such a stay, we have adopted the judge’s proposed decision, allowing horse racing to put this unfortunate matter in the past. For the same reason, we do not expect Mr. Pletcher to appeal.”
Wait a While, owned by Alan Cohen’s Arindel Farm, was disqualified by California stewards in April and her $213,000 share of the purse was redistributed.
The 2006 Eclipse Award winner as the nation's leading 3-year-old filly, Wait a While was treated with procaine penicillin G for a fever she developed two days after winning the 2008 Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Sept. 27. The filly had not responded to other antibiotics, and Pletcher said he was advised by his veterinarians that a 14-day withdrawal time would be adequate for this treatment.
Pletecher said Wait a While received her last injection of the antibiotic on Oct. 6, 18 days prior to the Breeders’ Cup.