At The Races - Steroid bans reach the world of horse racing

January 06, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Six states in the Mid-Atlantic Region have discussed the process of banning anabolic steroids in thoroughbred race horses.

"It looks like April is the likely starting date when the various states will implement the ban," said Michael Hopkins - the Executive Director of the Maryland State Racing Commission. "Some will start April 1, others on April 15. Here in Maryland, we are shooting for April 17, the opening day of the spring meet at Pimlico."

The Mid-Atlantic Racing Commissions include representatives from Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Virginia.

"Steroids on race horses is mostly through an injection, but there is also some powder form," Hopkins said. "The primary purpose is to improve appetite and put on weight. It has been going on for years. Some trainers use steroids on horses, others don't. And it can be applied to claiming horses as well as allowance horses. It's a national trend, although this ban will be in effect just for horses under the jurisdiction of the Mid-Atlantic Region."


John Franzone, chairman of the Maryland State Racing Commission, said the ban this is the right move.

"There is no place for steroids in racing," Franzone said.

The Mid-Atlantic Region has been an industry leader in medication issues.

The West Virginia State Racing Commission will discuss the implementation of a steroid ban at a meeting in Charleston on Jan. 19. Charles Town and Mountaineer Park would likely join the steroid ban - if approved by the state racing commission.

Title winners

Luis Garcia, Scott Lake and Robert Cole gained year-end titles at the major Maryland tracks in the jockey, trainer and owner divisions respectively.

According to Mike Gathagan - Vice President-Communications for Maryland racing - Lake and Cole also finished at the top of the standings for the Laurel Park fall meeting, while Garcia, who missed nearly six weeks with a broken wrist, finished second in the rider standings during the 17-week stand.

Garcia had 140 victories at Laurel Park and Pimlico in 2007 and captured the riding titles during the Pimlico spring and Laurel summer meets and won a career-best five at Laurel on Oct. 8.

The 23-year-old arrived in Maryland as an apprentice in 2003 and developed into a top-five rider at the major Maryland tracks two years later.

Horacio Karamanos (116) and Jeremy Rose (111) were the only other riders to win more than 100 races during the 180 live days at the major Maryland tracks this year.

Lake saddled 113 winners at the major Maryland tracks during the campaign, 47 more than John Rigattieri.

He captured the Laurel winter, Pimlico spring and Laurel fall training titles. The 42-year-old conditioner stables horses in Maryland, New York, Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Cole is the state's top owner for the second consecutive year. Cole runners won 33 times from 120 starts, an impressive 27.5 percent rate.

The Baltimore County native also finished third nationally in wins and ranked in the top 15 in earnings.

Pony tales

· Rosie Napravnik turned the page on an injury-riddled 2007 season with a riding triple on the opening day of 2008.

The 19-year-old jockey, who missed nearly seven months of the 2007 campaign, scored aboard Impaired Judgment, Coral Cave and Lovers Spat at Laurel Park.

The Eclipse Award runner-up for outstanding apprentice missed 2 1/2 months after suffering three compression fractures in the thoracic region of her back due to a spill at Laurel on Jan. 26, 2007.

In early July, she broke her wrist in a spill at Colonial Downs and was out of action for four months.

Napravnik still won 89 races in 2007.

· Racing five fewer days than in 2006, the Maryland Jockey Club announced its total handle declined eight percent in 2007.

All sources handle totaled $883.8 million, down from $960.2 million the previous year.

The daily average handle from all sources decreased 6.5 percent from $4.1 million to $3.8 million.

Preakness Day wagering finished at more than $87.2 million, the fourth largest in the 132-year history of the event, with over $57 million bet on the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

The 22nd annual Maryland Million event drew a record crowd of 26,788 in October. The handle was a record $5,985,793 on the 12-race Laurel card, shattering the record of $5 million set in 2005, while a total of $3.9 million passed through the pari-mutuel windows on the 10-race Fall Festival Of Racing card in November, a day featuring four added-money races.

· Cowboy Cal and Bsharpsonata, who won stakes races on the De Francis Dash undercard in late November, kicked off their 3-year-old seasons in style with impressive stakes scores at Calder Race Course in Miami on New Year's Day.

Cowboy Cal, who took the Laurel Futurity, won the Grade III Tropical Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Laurel Park-based Bsharpsonata, from the Tim Salzman barn, took the $100,000 Tropical Oaks with regular rider Eric Camacho.

· Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., kicks off 2008 on Monday with its Horses of All Ages sale.

The seven-day auction has cataloged 2,547 horses, comprising 1,201 broodmares, 862 yearlings, 482 horses of racing age and two stallions.

Keeneland will offer broodmares in-foal to such leading stallions as A.P. Indy, Afleet Alex, Distorted Humor, Elusive Quality, Empire Maker, Forestry, Fusaichi Pegasus, Giant's Causeway, Malibu Moon, Mineshaft, Mr. Greeley, Posse, Smart Strike Speightstown, Storm Cat, Street Cry, Successful Appeal, Tale of the Cat, Unbridled's Song and Vindication, among others.

Larry Yanos covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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