Of the first six Quarter Horses subjected to out-of-competition testing using horse hair analysis in New Mexico, four tested positive for Clenbuterol.
The New Mexico Racing Commission put a new rule in place July 1 allowing for the testing of horse hair and state investigator Leasa Johnson and contract veterinarian Alan Chastain began collecting samples July 11.
The new rule allows the NMRC to place a horse on the stewards list for 60 days if it tests positive for certain prohibited substances. Because of the difficulty of determining when a drug was administered based on testing of hair, the rule does not call for a trainer to be sanctioned with a fine or suspension.
Of the first six horses that had hair tested, four of the hair samples were positive for the bronchodilator clenbuterol, which can have anabolic effects if administered in a regimen. Two of the horses were from 2016 AQHA Champion trainer Judd Kearl's barn. The other two were from trainer Sal Soto's and Jose Barron's barn.
Earlier this year, the Association of Racing Commissioners International approved a model rule that eliminates the use of clenbuterol for Quarter Horses in training. The NMRC previously approved rules prohibiting clenbuterol in Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.
The NMRC said hair sample testing was a tool deemed necessary by industry stakeholders in New Mexico in order to level the playing field. In 2016, New Mexico had 169 drug violations, a majority of them from Quarter Horses and a significant number of those from West Texas trainers.
"Over the past several months, we have seen a number of positives from stables based in Texas, where it is legal to use clenbuterol," said NMRC executive director Ismael "Izzy" Trejo said. "We felt that due to the volume of participation in New Mexico from Texas stables, it was unfair for our New Mexico horsemen to compete against horses from Texas that might have been abusing clenbuterol for the anabolic steroid effects, or other prohibited substances."
The NMRC said it conducted out-of-competition testing on nearly 600 samples last year. New Mexico horsemen live under the reality that their horses may be selected for out-of-competition testing anytime of the year whereas Texas-based horses can use clenbuterol there before coming to compete in New Mexico for the rich Futurity and Derby money offered in the Land of Enchantment.
Two of New Mexico's signature horse racing events, the upcoming All American Futurity and Derby over the Labor Day weekend of Sept. 2-4, will offer approximately $4.5 million in purse money between the two races. The NMRC plans to test a number of hair samples from horses nominated to the All-American Derby and Futurity. Not only will the NMRC do that, it also will pull hair samples from all the qualifiers for the finals of the Futurity and Derby.
"The owners and trainers that have put their time and money into supporting one of the largest sporting events in New Mexico deserve to have a fair shake at the lucrative purse money offered and we feel this is one of the tactics we can use to obtain that," said NMRC chairman Ray Willis.
The NMRC will continue to use hair testing for other big races on the New Mexico stakes calendar such as "The Downs at Albuquerque Fall Quarter Horse Championship" Sept. 24, which carries a purse of $250,000.