After several months, members of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission have upheld the decision of Delaware Park stewards to suspend and fine trainer Larry Jones because of an incident this spring in which his horse, Stones River, tested positive for clenbuterol.
DTRC executive director John Wayne said that at a Nov. 3 hearing, testimony from both sides in the case was heard and considered, after which a decision was made to endorse the stewards’ ruling in its entirety. The ruling called for a seven-day suspension and a $500 fine.
Wayne said the commission believed the ruling would not be injurious to Jones’ reputation because clenbuterol, a bronchodilator, is known as being mainly a therapeutic medication, and because it is the first substance positive Jones has been charged with during his 25-year career.
The case was originally brought to light when Stones River tested positive for the drug after winning an allowance race June 8. Jim Squires, who campaigns Stones River in parnership under the name of his Two Bucks Stable, publicly questioned the test prior to the stewards taking action because he wanted to be the first to report the incident, which he called “highly suspicious.”
Squires was apprehensive about the positive because of the timing of when it was reported--two days before he appeared at a congressional hearing on the horseracing industry. He also questioned the test because of the Delaware clearance rule of 72 hours for clenbuterol, which means if administered before that, it should have been out of the horse’s system before the race.
Jones, who appealed the stewards’ ruling in September, was issued a stay of the suspension pending the appeal. Wayne said Jones would have 48 hours to appeal the charges again once a decision in order is presented to his counsel by Delaware’s deputy attorney general sometime the week of Nov. 9. Under Delaware law, Jones’ wife, Cindy, a licensed trainer, would not be permitted to take over her husband’s horses during his suspension.
When asked if he would further appeal his sentence, Jones said the decision would be left up to Squires, who said they would most likely not press the issue further because of the immense expenses and time they had already spent fighting it. Besides losing his $25,000 winning purse, Squires said he had spent another $25,000 in court.
“We never disputed the horse didn’t have clenbuterol,” said Squires, adding that he and Jones had “played by the rules” and administered the therapeutic drug, which helps to clear a horse’s lungs, during the allowable 72-hour period prior to the race.
“I’m not one to say we can’t treat our horses,” said Squires. “People know who the cheaters are and those who aren’t cheaters. Larry Jones is not a cheater, and now he has a record of being one. And I’m certainly not a cheater, but now my credibility on drugs has been damaged and undermined. At least we got our testimony on the record.”
Squires, who was a member of the Kentucky Racing Commission for five years during the 1990s, said he was disappointed in the commission’s decision, as they had the flexibility to alter Jones’ ruling to a warning due to the circumstances.
Squires said he understood the commission’s responsibility to uphold Delaware’s “zero tolerance” rule for banned medications, but he criticized the track’s lack of funding for proper testing and security.
He said clenbuterol research suggests one in 1,000 horses could still show traces of the substance after the 72-hour period. Squires also brought up the possibility that an individual could have “sabotaged” Jones by giving Stones River additional clenbuterol, but because of the track’s poor security, they would never know.