Michael Gill, the leading Thoroughbred owner in the country in races and money won, said reported positives for a tranquilizer in two of his horses during the Saratoga meet would result in nothing more than damage to his reputation.
Two Gill-owned horses tested positive for fluphenazine, one on Aug. 8 and another on Aug. 9, according to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. While the racing board lists withdrawal times for many substances, its rules say fluphenazine can't be present in a horse's system.
Stacy Clifford, a spokeswoman for the racing board, said the cases remain under investigation, so she couldn't comment. She did, however, note that racing board rules don't address threshold levels for drugs in tests.
"The levels are determined at the laboratory at Cornell University," Clifford said. "The determination is made whether they call a positive or not."
Gill said trainers commonly use the drug, which has a calming effect, on nervous horses. The drug was last used on his horses 36 days before their races, he said. An individual with knowledge of equine drugs said traces of the substance could linger for months in a horse's system.
The Gill cases could trigger more discussion in the industry about threshold levels, and at just what level drugs have an impact on a horse's performance. Fluphenazine isn't considered therapeutic, however, and is grouped among performance-altering substances.
Clifford said the levels of fluphenazine found in Gill's horses as determined by the lab wouldn't be released.
Karen Murphy, a New York attorney hired by Gill, said Sept. 13 she requested a split sample for testing, and expects to see what the levels of detection were when she receives a "data pack" on the cases.
"I've never really seen such public discourse on something that's not even close to a ruling," Murphy said. "The trainer hasn't even been brought in for an interview. My take is we'll be able to resolve it earlier rather than after a ruling. Hopefully, we'll be able to resolve this quickly and fairly."
Gill, who ships to most racetracks from his Pennsylvania farm located about 15 minutes from Delaware Park, has been under scrutiny for years. He told The Blood-Horse
he was extremely unhappy about the recent developments in New York.
"If they find one other test on this medication with a lower amount (in the horses' systems), I'll quit," Gill said. "I can tell you this: I will not get a fine, and (trainer) Mark (Shuman) will not get a day. But do you know what we will get? Our reputations tarnished again."
Gill is winning races at an 18% clip this year.
"If I'm a cheat, I'm the worst cheat in the world," he said. "I'm already a wealthy guy. What's my (bleeping) motive?"
Gill won the owners' title at Saratoga, which wrapped up racing for the season Sept. 6. He recently said he might ship some horses to Northern California, and also plans to have a presence at the Lone Star Park meet that begins Oct. 1, and the Fair Grounds meet that begins Thanksgiving Day.