Horse trainer Jeffrey Heath Reed has been suspended from racing in New Mexico for 21 years and fined $23,000 after four horses he was training tested positive for an exotic, potent painkiller at Ruidoso Downs in May.
Reed, whose five first-place finishers in the May 25 qualifying races for the $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity tested positive for the drug dermorphin, must also forfeit $8,400 in purse money, according to sanctions handed down over the weekend by New Mexico Racing Commission stewards.
Dermorphin, said to be 40 times more powerful than morphine, is derived from the skin of a tree frog native to South America. Like other painkillers, it can be used illicitly to mask an injured horse’s pain, but at the risk of a catastrophic breakdown that can injure or kill the horse and its rider.
Racing Commission executive director Vince Mares said problems with urine and blood samples from a fifth dermorphin-positive horse trained by Reed led stewards to dismiss that case.
Two of Reed’s dermorphin-positive horses also tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that can build muscle, boost red blood cell production and increase bone density.
Reed was given a 20-year suspension for the dermorphin counts, and an additional year for the stanozolol infractions.
At a weekend hearing at Zia Park Racetrack in Hobbs, stewards also sanctioned trainer Carlos Sedillo, who had two horses test positive for dermorphin during the futurity trials.
Sedillo was suspended for five years, fined $10,000 and ordered to forfeit $4,200 in purse money.
Reed and Sedillo have 20 days to appeal their sanctions to the governor-appointed New Mexico Racing Commission, which has been cracking down on horse doping.
A New York Times story in March reported that New Mexico’s five racinos collectively had the worst safety record in the nation, and that lax regulations allowed trainers to illegally drug their horses with near impunity.
Though state racing officials say the Times article portrayed the state unfairly, the commission has adopted a number of regulations promoted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International that are far stricter than the state’s previous rules.
Because the new regulations did not take effect until July 3, Reed, Sedillo and two other prominent trainers whose horses flunked drug tests in May — John H. Bassett and Carl W. Draper — were sanctioned under the old regulations.
Earlier this month, Bassett, who has trained two winners of Ruidoso Downs’ prestigious $2.4 million All American Futurity, was suspended from racing for 10 years, fined $10,000 and ordered to return purse money after two of his horses tested positive for dermorphin.
Draper was suspended for 300 days, fined $6,000 and ordered to forfeit his winnings after four of his horses tested positive in May for ractopamine — a substance that mimics the effects of steroids. Though used primarily to build muscle mass in pigs, ractopamine can be used illegally to build muscle in horses and increase their strength and endurance.
The sanctions are believed to be among the harshest doled out by the Racing Commission in recent memory, said Mares, a former investigator for the commission.
As of Monday, none of the sanctioned trainers had filed appeals, Mares said.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal