Top New York trainer Gary Contessa is awaiting word on a ruling after at least five of his horses tested positive for the banned substance, ephedra.
The situation came to light February 1 and 2 when Aqueduct's leading trainer scratched all of his horses following a meeting with stewards.
Contessa said that traces of ephedra showed up in the post race tests due to an over-the-counter herbal supplement he has used on every horse in his shed row since the start of the year. He declined to name the five horses that tested positive, but confirmed that none of them won the races in question. After stopping the administering of the problematic supplement, Contessa resumed entering and racing his stock.
"It has a very short half life," he said. "The stewards suggested that the best thing to do would be to scratch those two days, and I certainly agreed. I already have five positives pending. I didn't need it to turn into seven or eight positives."
Contessa has hired an attorney in case the situation eventually requires legal attention. He said he does not know what will happen next, but expressed concern over the possibility of a fine and/or suspension.
"I think it is unfair to me that I have to go through this," he said. "Hopefully they'll look and see that it was not intentional, and that it was just traces of an herb found in a supplement that was sold over-the-counter, something that legitimate tack shops sell."
The trainer added that he used the same supplement throughout last year's campaign in New Jersey without any difficulties. He also finds comfort from the spate of similar positives in Southern California two summers ago, none of which led to severe sanctions.
The New York Racing Association stewards declined to comment on the matter, only to say that there was an investigation ongoing.