Trainer Darrell Vienna faces two complaints alleging that Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) winner Medici Code ran with excessive levels of clenbuterol in his system in the two races prior to the most important victory of his career.
The CHRB announced the complaints Sept. 28 against the 61-year-old Vienna, an attorney who was hired as a consultant to the agency on rule enforcement this year. His appointment, controversial because of his relationship as a trainer to board chairman Richard Shapiro, ended when Vienna resigned in June.
According to a statement from the CHRB, the Ken Maddy Laboratory at the University of California-Davis identified clenbuterol in excess of authorized levels in urine samples collected in two turf races earlier during the Del Mar meeting -- a division of the Oceanside Stakes July 18 and the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) on Aug. 11. Industrial Laboratories confirmed the findings in both split samples.
Owned by Herrick Racing, Medici Code ran second in the Oceanside, losing by a head, before his 1 1/4-length victory for jockey Martin Pedroza in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla. Medici Code followed that with a three-quarters of a length win in the nine-furlong Del Mar Derby, also on turf, with Pedroza aboard once more.
Clenbuterol, a bronchodilator commonly used in horses, is a Class 3 drug. Violations can occur because of failure to adhere to recommended withdrawal times. Penalties include forfeiture of purse money, fine and suspension.
A hearing date has not been set.
Class 3 cases in recent months have often been settled with stipulated agreements between the trainer and the CHRB calling for a stay of penalties upon successful passage of a probationary period in which no further violations are found. Dr. Rick Arthur, the CHRB equine medical director, said this complaint is unusual because it involves two allegations of the same drug and horse.
"(A stipulated agreement) would be up to the deputy attorney general and Darryl's attorney," Arthur said. "I wouldn't want to prejudice that. Certain parameters would need to be met (for a settlement)."
Among the considerations, he said, "They would want to look at the trainer's record and what the circumstances of the violations were."
Arthur added, "The horse did win in a race (the Del Mar Derby) subsequently to these two races ... in which he did not have a positive test."
Medici Code earned $107,260 from the two races for owners Bill and Donna Herrick, including $90,000 for his victory in the La Jolla.
During testimony from a deposition in Riverside, Calif., earlier this year, CHRB investigator Frank Fink said Vienna has had eight medication violations during his 31-year training career.
Medici Code, a British-bred son of Medicean, began his career in England. Since transferring to Vienna this spring, the 3-year-old chestnut gelding has won two of four starts.
Vienna, who worked in both the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office and in private practice, is considered expert in medication law. In the past, Vienna has assisted the CHRB in the development of rules and procedures relating to backstretch security, surveillance and TCO2 testing.
His no-bid contract, which paid him about $124,000, became part of a political squabble with a California state senator. Vienna was hired to review and fine tune CHRB rules that were outdated and to help establish uniform procedures for handling complaints.
His hiring became a focal point of criticism of the CHRB's recent contracts and appointments from Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) during a hearing in Sacramento in June.
Vienna maintained that any of his medication violations were for "residual amounts" or overages for permitted drugs that were not performance-enhancing.