Steve Asmussen

Steve Asmussen

Anne M. Eberhardt

Asmussen to Fight Six-Month Texas Suspension

Ban was to begin July 20; trainer's attorneys get stay, appeal to Texas commission.

Steve Asmussen, currently the country’s leading trainer in money and races won, was slapped with a six-month suspension and a $1,500 fine by the Lone Star Park stewards on July 16 for a positive urine test that contained a lidocaine metabolite in a horse he trained in 2008.

Asmussen’s attorneys immediately filed an appeal with the Texas Racing Commission, and a stay was granted late in the afternoon of July 16.

The suspension, which was scheduled to begin July 20, was meted out by the stewards after they conducted a one-day hearing on July 7.

After the stay was granted, Maggi Moss, one of Asmussen’s attorneys, said that the 2008 Eclipse Award-winning trainer would “fight this as long as it takes to get to the truth.”

Moss said the next step in the appeal process would begin with a yet-to-be-scheduled hearing before the racing commission. “We have the racing commission, then you can go into District Court, and then you can go all the way up the appeal ladder,” she said. “That’s what we intend to do, at least until we get the evidence that we requested over a year ago.”

Asmussen’s legal team, which also includes attorney Karen Murphy, requested that a blood sample be tested from the horse in question, Timber Trick, who after winning a maiden race at Lone Star Park on May 10, 2008, tested positive in her urine sample for the local anesthetic lidocaine. The attorneys’ repeated requests were never granted by the commission, who maintained that the amount of lidocaine in the system was not of consequence because of Texas’ zero-tolerance policy for the medication, which is rated as a Class 2 violation by the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

Moss and Murphy’s requests for quantitative data on the original and split urine samples were also denied. As a result, but to no avail, Asmussen’s counsel also filed an objection that cited two other cases involving Lone Star Park trainers in which the quantitative amount was taken under consideration by the Texas Racing Commission.

Because the amount of lidocaine detected was a minute amount, according to Moss, further testing could determine if this was a contamination issue.

“It’s our belief, at least as lawyers, that the due process clause is still in alive in the United States, which means the right to a fair and impartial hearing,” Moss told The Blood-Horse on  July 16. “And one of the staggering facts, from the beginning, is that if they tested the blood plasma, which every scientist we talked to said would determine what was there or not there, we would stand by (the blood results). The argument is if you’re going to take away someone’s livelihood, you at least hear the evidence that supports that.”

At the hearing, Asmussen testified he did not administer lidocaine to Timber Trick.

Asmussen, 43, trained two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, and currently has Preakness (gr. I) winner Rachel Alexandra in his care.

In 2006, Asmussen served a six-month suspension after mepivacaine, a local anesthetic, was detected in the post-race test results of a losing favorite he saddled at Louisiana Downs. Asmussen did not appeal that ruling in court.