Panza: No Rules Broken on Belmont Test Barn

Panza: No Rules Broken on Belmont Test Barn
Photo: Hollywood Park Photo
Martin Panza, New York Racing Association Senior Vice President for Racing

An official with the New York Racing Association said no rules were apparently broken June 7 when General a Rod was a late arrival to the pre-race testing barn for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

In an HRTV interview following the race won by Tonalist, trainer Dale Romans claimed that General a Rod, trained by Mike Maker, was late to the barn where regulatory vets take blood samples to be tested.

Romans, whose Medal Count finished third in the Belmont, said not having a horse at the testing barn on time was tantamount to providing that horse with an "unfair advantage." General a Rod ran seventh in the 11-horse field.

Romans said that because General a Rod was not at the test barn at the designated time, the colt should have been scratched.

Contacted June 8, Martin Panza, New York Racing Association senior vice president for racing, said no rules were apparently broken by General a Rod being late to the test barn.

"Like all of the horses in the Belmont, he had security and investigators assigned to him beginning 72 hours before the race and he underwent all the tests required of Belmont starters," Panza said. "As far as I know, there is no rule that a horse must be at the barn at a certain time as long as they undergo all of the testing."

Panza said there are times given to trainers for getting their horses to the test barn and that it was Maker's responsibility to see that happen. Panza said one problem Saturday was that spotty cell service made it difficult to contact trainers and let them know they were late.

The enhanced security protocols announced for the Belmont Stakes stated that "On June 7, horses participating will be required to be in the assembly barn between 45 minutes to 1 hour before post time for TCO2 testing."

"I think it was wrong to let him run," Romans said, adding that the incident brought into question the integrity of racing.

Romans was at Monmouth Park Sunday and unavailable for further comment.

Maker said the late move to the test barn was inadvertent, noting that the NYRA security personnel assigned to General a Rod were responsible for letting him know when to take the horse to the barn. Barn personnel were told that the colt was to go to the barn at 6:15 and at 6:05 they were notified via phone that they were already late, he said.

"We were following the instructions of security personnel assigned to us," Maker said. "There is no advantage to being a little early or late to be saddled."

Maker said General a Rod underwent all the pre-race testing that was administered the other horses and that the horse was ready to go to the track 28 minutes prior to the Belmont post time.

Maker said he did not know if he would be contacted by the stewards but that he was already planning to contact them.

While a rule might not have been broken in connection with the incident, Panza said stewards may decide to fine Maker for not making the test barn deadline.

"It is the trainer's responsibility to get the horse to the test barn on time," Panza said.

Efforts to reach NYRA stewards Sunday were unsuccessful.

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