Kentucky is one state that understands the importance of horse racing. This is nothing new, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the state and its signature industry has spurred changes in the Commonwealth even as no reopening date can be seen on the horizon.
Those changes included several items in the recently-approved one-year state budget that allocated $2.1 million for the industry. Kentucky hopes to show how much it values the industry and its integrity through a large contribution toward testing various drugs for equines and research about health concerns. The funding also dictates a new safety steward position to ensure that Kentuckians adhere to medication rules.
The lack of actual racing in Kentucky didn’t stop the business of the industry from moving forward.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission didn’t stop working when Governor Andy Beshear issued stay-at-home orders. Racing stopped, and revenue stopped, but the KHRC continued its work. It issued several rulings in the first weeks of April, most notably pertaining to owner and trainer Bret Calhoun for a CBD-positive regarding Touch Blue.
Calhoun Punished for CBD in Touch Blue
He is no stranger to the industry, as Bret Calhoun’s first starts date back to 1994. To date, he shows 14,576 starts in his career, of which 3,137 were wins. And the earnings attributed to Calhoun total more than $83.9 million.
That’s why many were surprised at this week’s ruling by the KHRC.
On July 6, 2019, Touch Blue won the first race at Ellis Park. But a blood sample from the thoroughbred, trained by Calhoun, tested positive for Cannabidiol – CBD – a Class B violation. Calhoun waived his right to a formal hearing before the Board of Stewards and accepted a 30-day suspension and $500 fine.
However, due to Calhoun’s otherwise admirable record, Calhoun must only serve 10 days of his suspension, which is April 14-23. The KHRC stayed the other 20 days for one year on the condition that Calhoun incurs no other Class A or Class B medication violations in the next 365 days.
Meanwhile, Touch Blue was disqualified from the Ellis Park win and forfeited the $7,500 in purse money. The KHRC notified owner Chester Thomas of the decision and requested the return of the money, which will be redistributed to other participants in that race, most notably Won Lil Indian, who is now the winner on record.
As for Calhoun’s side of the story, he said the CBD was in a supplement given to Touch Blue that had been recommended by Thomas. “Neither him nor I had any idea that this (supplement) was illegal,” he remarked. Even so, the Association of Racing Commissioners International had dubbed CBD a Class 2 drug and prohibited its use due to the “high potential to affect performance.”
Turner Hit for Gabapentin in Fides Ratio
Earlier in April, Danny Turner was under the microscope. His records date back to 2010 with just 101 starts and six wins, so his infraction didn’t garner the same attention of Calhoun.
Even so, the KHRC took a look at trainer Turner overseeing Fides Ratio at Turfway Park. The horse finished fourth in the eighth race at Turfway on March 13, 2020, but a sample taken from the thoroughbred showed Gabapentin in the blood.
Turner waived his right to a formal hearing and received a 30-day suspension and $500 fine. However, in recognition of this being his first fine for a Class B medication in his training career, Turner was ordered to serve only 15 days of his suspension for April 4-18. The other 15 days are stayed on the condition that there are no medication violations of any kind in the next 365 days.
Fides Ratio was disqualified and lost the fourth-place purse money of $5,000 for that race. Owner Leslie Ritchie must return the money.