"What is the story here in California?" Frankel asked. "First they had all those false cocaine positives against Wayne Lukas and Laz Barrera. Then scopolamine, where they charged people like Dick Mandella and Willard Proctor, then caffeine positives, and now this." The series of questionable positive tests has led a Hall of Fame trainer based on the East Coast to think about not sending one of his top horses to California for a stakes race at Hollywood Park this fall. "It really is a consideration," the trainer said. "You know there's something wrong with the testing, and it isn't worth taking a chance. You end up saying, 'Maybe I just won't go.'
It's pretty clear what options Aaron U. Jones has for his outstanding Brazilian mare, Riboletta, who after her powerful victory in the Beldame Stakes (gr. I) on Oct. 14 has just about run out of competition in the distaff division. Jones need not do anything else this year with his star; let his other filly, Three Chimneys Spinster Stakes (gr. I) winner Plenty of Light, contest the Distaff (gr. I), and then go to New Orleans in January to pick up the older filly or mare Eclipse Award for Riboletta. With five grade I and two grade II wins, she's done enough to claim the title, even before the Breeders' Cup. She doesn't have anything to gain by going in the Distaff. If, however, Jones wants to add to his collection a golden statuette of Eclipse that symbolizes Horse of the Year, he'll have to run Riboletta against males in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). That's more than just a sporting gesture, since Jones and his wife, Marie, would have to pay an $800,000 supplementary nomination -- 20% of the Classic's $4 million purse -- because Riboletta's sire was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup program. The lion's share of that supplemental fee, $720,000, would go into the purse of the Classic, giving Jones a chance to get his money back if Riboletta finishes first or second. If Riboletta were a colt, a decision to supplement to the Classic might make economic sense. Reports have indicated the syndication price of Lemon Drop Kid would increase by $10 million -- from $30 million to $40 million -- if the Kingmambo colt is named Horse of the Year. That's quite an incentive. But Lemon Drop Kid's owners won't be faced with the same kind of decision as Jones, since Lemon Drop Kid was nominated to the Breeders' Cup as a foal. Considering that Riboletta can produce a limited number of foals as a broodmare, paying such a large supplemental fee may not make economic sense, though the winner's share of the Classic would top $2.5 million if she runs. Remember, this is the same Aaron Jones who took a sporting chance in 1983 when he sent Lemhi Gold to Europe (albeit for an unsuccessful campaign) after the son of Vaguely Noble earned an Eclipse Award as champion older male. Not every decision in this game has to make economic sense when sporting men and women are involved. CALIFORNIA CALAMITY It's bad enough that California Gov. Gray Davis vetoed every piece of legislation that would have benefited the racing industry (The Blood-Horse of Oct. 14, page 6169), including one that would have permitted account wagering in the state. But the governor has thought so little about racing that he's failed to appoint enough members to the California Horse Racing Board for it to have a quorum. There are four vacancies on the board. It's not as if there are no serious challenges facing the CHRB. First and foremost is a medication and drug testing crisis that has the nation's top two trainers, Robert Frankel and Bob Baffert, facing charges that horses in their care tested positive for morphine. Both men contend the tests stemmed from accidental contamination, and Frankel says something with the testing procedures has gone amiss.