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Eastern Delite penalized for caffeine high

AT THE RACES -

April 13, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Something happened to Eastern Delite on the way to the winner's circle.

The thoroughbred ingested caffeine.

The winner of the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic last October at Charles Town Races & Slots tested positive for the stimulant.

The horse was disqualified from purse money by the West Virginia State Stewards following a positive sample by the official chemist for the State Racing Commission -- Dalare Associates in Philadelphia.

Following an appeal by trainer Freddie Johnson and owner Sharon Johnson, another split sample was sent to a laboratory at Louisiana State University to be analyzed. The analysis confirmed the findings of the original testing laboratory of the presence of caffeine.

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The stewards then afforded a hearing to trainer Johnson and owner Johnson on Nov. 29, 2007 and -- following their testimony -- the conditioner was handed a 15-day suspension for violation of a West Virginia rule of racing.

Trainer Johnson also appealed that decision to the West Virginia State Racing Commission for further review. The three-member panel will make a final verdict at a hearing this Thursday in Charles Town.

"Various horses in the race were tested and Eastern Delite came back with a positive for caffeine," West Virginia state steward Bobby Lotts said. "It sounds a little unique, but it does happen throughout the country. In fact, a horse was disqualified here a few years ago. After investigating, the granddaughter of the trainer admitted to giving the horse a candy bar the day before the race. It was very innocent, yet caffeine was found in the horse's system following the race and the horse was disqualified. Caffeine is considered a Class 1 drug.

"The best horse won that night, it was an excellent ride (by jockey Oscar Flores). But a positive drug test meant (the state stewards) had to take immediate action and pass our examination results on to the state racing commission."

State steward Danny Wright said, "It could have been a cup of coffee, a candy bar, many things. Caffeine is found in many products and is an energy thing. And a positive is a positive -- regardless of the stimulant involved."

Wright said the ruling in no way affects the pari-mutuel wagering on the race in question.

Eastern Delite returned winning mutuels of $27.00, $8.00 and $5.00 while second-place finisher Confucius Say returned $2.40 and $2.20 and Double Tollgate returned $4.00.

Sam Huff, the president of the West Virginia Breeders Classic, is amused at the situation involving Eastern Delite.

"I've never heard of such a thing," Huff said. "I know the sports pages are loaded these days with athletes -- human and equine -- trying to beat the system, but caffeine addiction in a race horse? That's a new one."

Huff says the thoroughbred horse racing industry has set up safeguards for drug testing, although it varies from state to state. But the caffeine issue is a bit unique.

"The race looked fair and square to me, the winner ran a great race and defeated a quality field of horses. There was no interference, a clean race. I personally think the race decision should stand. I've never heard of such a thing. Why in West Virginia?"

Pony tales

· During the recently completed Winter Meet at Charles Town, eight different thoroughbreds sported perfect 3-for-3 records.

Lucy Colleen, Bird of War, Southern Trieste, Mt. Ida, Warrior's Mettle, Mr. Emancipator, Savethebestforlass and Unbridled Gold all registered three wins from three starts.

· The thoroughbred racing season at Delaware Park will get under way next Saturday and will run through Nov. 11 -- a total of 136 live racing days.

Live thoroughbred racing will be held four days a week (Saturday through Tuesday) at the beginning of the meet. Wednesday live racing will be added from May 28 through Aug. 6 and from Sept. 3 to 24.

A special holiday card will be presented on July 4.

Delaware Park's first race post time is 12:45 p.m.

· Producers John and Brad Hennegan will premiere their award-winning documentary "The First Saturday in May" in 20 U.S. theatres Thursday.

"The First Saturday in May" -- featuring heroic thoroughbred champion Barbaro -- chronicles the journey of a diverse cast of six hard-working trainers and their jockeys in pursuit of horse racing's Holy Grail -- the Kentucky Derby.

The Hennegan Brothers have pledged 25 percent of their box office revenues, as well as a portion of revenues generated when the film is released on DVD, to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, which raises and distributes funding for research beneficial to horses.

To see a short preview of the film or to get additional information, visit thefirstsaturdayinmay.com or grayson-jockeyclub.org

· The thoroughbred horse racing career of Dane Kobiskie crossed another milestone in late March when the jockey-turned-trainer saddled his first career winner at Laurel Park.

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