The Tampa Bay Downs board of stewards handed trainer Don Rice an additional six-month suspension and denied privileges of the grounds during that period after a third Rice-trained horse tested positive for an excess amount of alkaline agents during the last week. The combined suspension totals seven months. Rice would be re-eligible to race on Sept. 5."The additional six months suspension may seem harsh but that's the penalty for three violations. Everyone knew we were testing and what the penalties were for violations," said Peter Berube, track general manager. "Two independent labs confirmed the three positives ... and the stewards issued their final ruling today." The horses with the overages in chronological order are Twisted Cord, race 8 on Jan. 27 (finished fourth); Honest Chance, race 9 on Jan. 29 (finished third); and Headline, Race 5 on Jan. 31(finished second). Horses that test over the 37-millimole threshold for alkaline agents per liter of plasma are in violation of the rule. The substance can enhance performance by delaying the onset of fatigue or by masking other illegal drugs in the equine system. Rice is the only trainer to have horses test positive since Tampa Bay Downs began testing for the alkaline agents using Total Carbon Dioxide (TCO2) testing in January.
Tampa Bay Downs sends the pre-race samples taken from a randomly selected race each day to Bay Care Lab of Clearwater, with split samples sent to the On-Track Lab in Pompano Beach and/or the University of California Testing Lab in Davis.