The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission didn't change a stewards' ruling that a Graham Motion-trained horse raced with too much methocarbamol in its system, but the KHRC did alter the sanctions levied against the classic-winning trainer.
An October 2015 stewards ruling found Bewitch Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Kitten's Point had a methocarbamol (Robaxin) overage in the April 24 race at Keeneland. The stewards ruled that Kitten's Point, a George Strawbridge Jr. homebred, be disqualified and purse money be redistributed and Motion be fined $500 and suspended five days.
The trainer said he followed RMTC withdrawal time guidelines for Robaxin and the horse still tested positive for an overage of the muscle relaxant. Motion and Strawbridge appealed the stewards' decision.
That appeal saw a Kentucky hearing officer recommend the KHRC uphold the stewards' ruling and sanctions. On Tuesday, the KHRC kept the ruling in place, as well as the disqualification and $500 fine, but removed the suspension. Motion thought that removing the suspension suggested some concern on the commission's part about the initial ruling.
"Clearly they feel there are some concerns with this case because they changed the sanctions," Motion said.
KHRC chairman Frank Kling Jr. did not comment on why the commission opted to drop the suspension. Ten members of the commission approved the ultimate decision while five others abstained because of current or previous business ties with Motion. No commissioner opposed the decision.
Methocarbamol has a recommended withdrawal time of 48 hours. Kitten's Point tested at 2.9 nanograms per milliliter of blood for methocarbamol, which carries a 1.0 ng/ml threshold.
Motion, who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with Animal Kingdom , said he was most frustrated by not being fully able to present his side of the story. Motion was denied a request to speak at the Oct. 4 commission meeting.
"In Maryland I'm a member of a medication committee and in Kentucky I'm not even allowed to speak? As far as I'm concerned, that seems un-American," said Motion, who was born in Cambridge, England. "It's frustrating and upsetting that I was not allowed to tell my side of the story."
Motion requested a moment to speak during the public session or in the closed session set aside to discuss his appeal. Kling did not afford him that opportunity. Afterward Kling said he was within the rules of order to deny Motion the opportunity to speak.
The trainer added that the hearing officer would not consider a published paper by Dr. Heather Knych that Motion says points to problems with the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium withdrawal guidelines and threshold for methocarbamol. The RMTC has said that its withdrawal time is accurate for the corresponding recommended dosage and treatment protocol.
Motion believes that Kentucky, for reasons he does not understand, is registering methcarbamol positives for trainers who are following the guidelines. He said Kitten's Point received treatment seven days out, well outside the 48-hour guidance. He said similar treatments did not create any problem in other states, including California and Florida.
The next avenue of appeal would be through the courts. Motion said he has made no decision on furthering the appeal. He said while most would view the overage as minor, he felt it was important to appeal it because he followed the guidelines but still had a positive. He said he has heard from other trainers who have experienced similar problems.
"This has all been terribly frustrating. It's a real problem when you're trying to follow the rules and still have a positive," Motion said. "I went out of my way to follow the RMTC guidance."