Trainer Bruce Levine

Trainer Bruce Levine

Skip Dickstein

EPO Tests for Levine Horses at Monmouth

Blood was draw from all the horses in Bruce Levine's Monmouth Park barn June 24.

Bruce Levine, the leading trainer at Monmouth Park, had his entire stable of 41 horses tested for erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO, by a New Jersey state veterinarian who made a surprise visit to Levine’s Monmouth barn June 24 at the request of the New Jersey Racing Commission.

The results of the tests should be available one week from the time the blood was pulled, said Frank Zanzuccki, executive director of the NJRC. Zanzuccki said tests were conducted under an out-of- competition testing program for EPO instituted last October.

Random testing of horses that competed in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth was conducted. Zanzuccki said none of those tests came back positive, including those samples drawn from foreign horses, before they left their respective countries to travel to New Jersey to compete in the Breeders’ Cup.

EPO is an illegal performance-enhancing drug.

“The reason out-of-competition testing is optimal with horses that might have been treated with EPO is that on race day, science and intelligence tells us (positives are not detected),” Zanzuccki said June 26. “The only way to detect EPO is to show up prior to race day, after EPO was administered.”

Zanzuccki said he believes Levine’s barn was the first at Monmouth to undergo the testing, and said more barns are scheduled for tests.

“This is just a routine program; Mr. Levine’s time came,” Zanzuccki said when asked if Levine was targeted because of his high success rate at the current Monmouth meet.

Through, June 25, Levine has a record of 27-6-6 from 56 starters, with purses earnings of $503,940. Levine’s closest competitor is Eddie Broome, who has saddled 13 winners from 49 starters. The Monmouth meet began May 9.

Levine, 53, was not present when the state vet took the blood from his horses. He received a call from his Monmouth assistant when racing commission officials arrived at his barn June 24.

“My assistant put a guy on the phone, and I said, ‘Go ahead, help yourself,’ ” Levine said June 26 by telephone as he prepared to leave Monmouth to drive back to Belmont Park, where he has a division of horses. “I have nothing to hide. Sure, I feel a little bit violated. But it is what it is. I’m not really concerned. Maybe some people had sour grapes (over his success at Monmouth).

“I’m not giving any of my horses anything illegal. I give them Bute and clenbuterol for training, and that is legal. In fact, I stopped giving my horses, except for one New York-bred filly, steroids on Jan. 1, because I knew was going to be racing at Philly Park and Delaware Park, and I didn’t want my hands tied and to be unable to ship my horses there.

“And I have to tell you, basically there is no difference in the performance of the horses after taking them off steroids.”

Pennsylvania, where Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack is located, and Delaware, are two states where steroids are now being regulated.

New Jersey’s out-of-competition testing program expanded the racing commission’s ability to test horses for illegal substances by authorizing testing not only at racetracks, but at horse farms--and at any time. Before last October, the commission was only authorized to conduct testing of horses on race day, and only at New Jersey’s four racetracks.

The out-of-competition testing program has thus far yielded six reported EPO positives on harness horses that have raced at Freehold Raceway and Meadowlands in New Jersey this year, and at tracks in New York and Pennsylvania as well. The blood was drawn from those horses stabled at a farm in Burlington County, N.J., in May.