In a medication case dating back to 2006, trainer Jeff Mullins has been ordered to serve a 70-day suspension, beginning June 1.
In an order dated April 28, the California Horse Racing Board rejected a hearing officer’s recommendation of a 60-day suspension, with credit for 20 days served and directed Mullins to begin serving a 90-day sentence, with credit for 20 days previously served. During the period he is suspended, Mullins is denied access to all premises under the CHRB’s jurisdiction and “shall forfeit all assigned stall space and shall removed from the enclosures all signage, advertisements, training-related equipment, tack, office equipment, and any other property.”
According to the CHRB’s record of the case, it all began back on July 8, 2006, when a post-race test on Robs Coin from the seventh race at Hollywood Park was positive for the substance mepivacaine. The CHRB charged Mullins with a Class II medication violation and he was eventually suspended for 90 days. Under terms of the penalty, Mullins served 20 days and was placed on probation for a year, effective May 23, 2008. As a condition of probation, he was to obey all rules of California racing, with the additional 70 days to be imposed if he violated the probation, according to the CHRB.
Following a positive test on the horse Pathbreaking at Del Mar on Aug. 3, 2008, Mullins received a 30-day suspension, which he served. Contending that the Pathbreaking positive meant Mullins had violated the probation, the CHRB began steps to have the rest of the suspension imposed.
Subsequently, Steffan Imhoff, a hearing officer/appellate judge appointed by the CHRB, conducted four hearings into the matter.
Following those hearings and a number of legal motions, Imhoff made his recommendation on Nov. 1, 2010.
“Only one conclusion can be drawn from these facts,” Imhoff ruled. “Trainer Jeff Mullins was on CHRB probation for a Class II mepivacaine violation and while he was on probation he committed a Class III TCO2 offense in direct violation of the conditions of his probation. The only remaining question is the penalty to be imposed for his probation violation.”
In recommending the 60-day suspension, with 20-day credit, Imhoff cited mitigating circumstances derived from evidence offered on behalf of Mullins as to character and professional ramifications of the CHRB’s actions.
Part of the evidence attesting to Mullin’s character related the events surrounding I Want Revenge being scratched out of the 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on the morning of the race.
“On the morning of the race, Mullins discovered some filling in the horse’s left front ankle,” the report stated. “The horse was then examined by respondent’s vet as well as renowned veterinarian Dr. (Larry) Bramlage. The vets advised him that I Want Revenge was not lame and could run in the Derby but it was in the horse’s best interest not to run. Putting aside his chance to enjoy the fame and fortune associated with training a Kentucky Derby winner, Mullins did what was in the best interest of I Want Revenge and scratched the horse from the Derby.”
Imhoff said Mullins’ version of events was corroborated by others, concluding “We believe Mullins’ performance at the 2009 Derby demonstrated grace and fortitude under extreme pressure that constitutes evidence of mitigation.”
The hearing officer’s report noted that Mullins’ annual purses had decreased from around $4 million to $900,000, that his number of starters have fallen from about 500 a year to 200, and that the number of horses he had in training had fallen by half.
“While not all of these reductions can be assigned to the mepivacaine and TCO2 findings, we believe that a portion of it can.”