'Milkshake' Fine Believed a Record for Kentucky

In what is believed to be a record fine for a Standardbred horseman in Kentucky, Dale Loney, a trainer and driver, was fined $5,000 after tests revealed two of his horses had been "milkshaked" on the same race day at Thunder Ridge Raceway in Prestonsburg.

Loney also was suspended for 11 months in connection with the two offenses that took place Oct. 19, officials said. Marc Guilfoil, director of Standardbred racing for the Kentucky Racing Commission, said Nov. 1 the five-day appeal period had expired. The ruling was issued Oct. 26 by judges at the track located in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

Milkshakes -- a concoction of sodium bicarbonate and other substances administered to a horse's stomach through a tube -- are illegal in Kentucky. Until about two years ago, Kentucky's regulations on milkshake use varied by breed: Milkshakes were illegal in Standardbred racing, but there was no rule against their use in Thoroughbreds.

Use of naso-gastric tubes in racehorses was discussed during the Oct. 30 Kentucky Racing Commission meeting. The tubes, which veterinarians say can be used to administer therapeutic substances as well, are not permitted on race day under a directive issued almost two years ago in connection with the milkshake regulation.

Dr. Alex Harthill, who practices on the backstretch at Churchill Downs, was fined $1,000 recently for using a naso-gastric tube in the barn area on a race day. Harthill, who paid the fine, said he administered electrolytes to a dehydrated horse. A subsequent investigation found no evidence of alleged milkshaking or other impropriety.

Veterinarians have asked the racing commission to reconsider its directive on the use of naso-gastric tubes.

This spring at The Red Mile in Lexington, Loney was issued a warning after a pre-race "black box" test turned up an infraction before a race. The first milkshake offense, Guilfoil said, is "no harm, no foul," and the horse is scratched. This summer at Players Bluegrass Downs in Paducah, another of Loney's horses failed the test, and he was fined $500 and suspended for 30 days. Loney appealed and raced on a stay.

The second offense, coupled with the third and fourth at Thunder Ridge, brought Loney's total fine to $5,500, and his total suspension to one year. Guilfoil said he couldn't recall a larger fine for a Standardbred horseman in Kentucky.