Trainer Probably Won't Pursue Churchill Protest

Trainer Richard Saland, who filed a protest in connection with the July 4 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs, said Tuesday he didn't plan to pursue the matter further for lack of evidence. Saland told the stewards he saw a veterinarian administer a milkshake to a Firecracker starter in the stakes barn earlier in the day.

Saland owns and trains Airbourne Command, a winner of more than $236,000 who finished seventh in the Firecracker. He alleges that Dr. Alex Harthill administered an illegal substance -- a milkshake -- to Stanley Ersoff's Band Is Passing, who subsequently finished fourth in the stakes.

"I failed to ask Dr. Harthill for a sample of (the substance)," Saland said. "I don't have any proof anything illegal was given to the horse, so I'm not pursuing it."

A milkshake, mainly sodium bicarbonate administered to a horse's stomach through a tube, is illegal in on raceday in Kentucky for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.

Harthill said he treated Band Is Passing for swollen and blistered hind ankles after notifying the state veterinarian and stewards late in the morning of the race, which was the 10th of the day. After he treated the horse with Lasix to dehydrate him, Harthill said he administered electrolytes through a tube.

Band Is Passing had been shipped from Florida to compete in the race.

"If (Saland) had taken the time to ask, I would have told him what we were doing," Harthill said. "There's no rule against using a nasal-gastric tube if it's done (before the four-hour cutoff before a race)."

Bernie Hettel, executive director of the Kentucky Racing Commission, acknowledged July 8 the trainer had filed the protest, and that investigators looked into the allegations. He said the fact the alleged illegal activity was reported about an hour after it was said to have occurred made the investigation difficult from the outset.

On Tuesday, Hettel said the case is pending because all of the test samples from the tail end of the Churchill Downs spring meet haven't been cleared by Truesdail Laboratories, which handles Kentucky's equine drug testing.

"We keep cases open until we're completely satisfied," Hettel said. "If that test day is clear, though, that's really the last piece of information (for the case)."

Saland stands by his protest -- "I'm just standing up for truth, justice, and the American way," he said -- but said he was a "little disappointed" by the process. Saland said the stewards told him they could have responded immediately had he called them at once, but he said even that would have been difficult.