Word is circulating in Kentucky that cobra venom, a substance used to kill pain, was found by investigators during a June 26 search of trainer Patrick Biancone’s barn at Keeneland.
Several sources indicated, and media reports suggested, that cobra venom was found, but the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority said it wouldn’t comment on the investigation until Biancone has a hearing. Sources said the bottles containing the venom were marked as such.
A hearing hasn’t been scheduled, and Biancone earlier said he wouldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation. He is permitted to race his horses pending the probe.
KHRA officials said the vehicle of Biancone’s veterinarian, Dr. Rod Stewart, had been searched as well during the barn search.
In late June, two Standardbred trainers admitted they injected a horse with cobra venom at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway last October. They pleaded guilty to the charges, the conviction on which allows the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to revoke their licenses.
There were no previous convictions in the United States for use of snake venom, which under the Association of Racing Commissioners International drug classifications is listed as a Class II substance--one with the ability to impact performance and affect the outcome of a race. Snake venom is a nerve-blocking agent.
Snake venom falls under RCI guidelines that say “possession and/or use of a drug, substance, or medication on the premises of a facility under the jurisdiction of the regulatory body that has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States” is considered a prohibited practice, as is blood-doping. Snake venom isn’t FDA-approved.
Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, said use of snake venom in racehorses “has been one of those rumor-mill things” for years.
Meanwhile, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported July 5 Churchill Downs stewards confirmed a sample from one of Biancone’s horses tested positive for a prohibited substance, but the results of a split-sample test hadn’t been received.