How Many Shoes Do They Have To Drop?

This week’s USTA regulatory listing brings more shoes falling on some familiar Yonkers training names. Richard Bilach has been handed a pair of lengthy suspensions for post race positives at Harrah’s Chester (now Philadelphia), the first on April 19 for the horse McKee Largo. This was followed by another positive on April 25 for the horse Trust My Heart. Both positives were for Yohimbine, an alkaloid which has both stimulant and aphrodisiac effects. Yohimbine is an over-the-counter herbal extract sometimes used to increase fat loss (think bodybuilding) and to treat sexual dysfunction. It is only reasonable to assume that Mr. Bilach’s horses were not being treated for either obesity or ED and the Pennsylvania regulatory authorities apparently agreed. For each violation, Richard Bilach received a 365 day suspension and a $5,000 fine. Both horses were disqualified and purses were redistributed. Each horse is ineligible to race for 90 days beginning June 5. The next time Bilach will be eligible to return to training will be on June 4, 2014 – two full years from the effective date of June 5, 2012.

Also on the USTA listing is Christopher Marino, who received a 15 day suspension (June 1 through June 15) and a $500 fine when his horse Stretch Limo was found to be positive for Tripelennamine after a May 8 race at Pocono Downs. Tripelennamine is a sedating antihistamine sometimes used recreationally by being combined with narcotic analgesics (opium, codeine) to produce an effect of euphoria. Did Stretch Limo just need to calm down or was this an attempt to mask pain? Or maybe the horse just likes to get high???

Additional penalties were handed to Nicholas Sodano, Jr., who was fined $1000 and suspended 15 days (June 3 through June 17) for a Lidocaine positive on his horse Big Bay Point after post race testing at Yonkers on November 12, 2011. The horse was disqualified from 1st to 8th and the purse redistributed. Lidocaine is an anesthetic which can also be used to treat ventricular (cardiac) arrhythmias. Combining Lidocaine with Ephinephrine (where have we heard that word before?) greatly extends the duration of anesthesia. So what was it about Big Bay Point that necessitated the use of Lidocaine? We’ll probably never get an answer to that question.

One more suspension was handed to Carl Tirella: 15 days (June 3 through June 17) plus a $500 fine for a post race positive at Yonkers on May 10 on his horse Victory Spirit N. Tests revealed both Ephedrine and Phenylpropanolamine, an amphetamine sometimes used to control urinary incontinence (in dogs). The horse was DQ’d from 1st to 8th and the purse redistributed. Urinary incontinence? Probably not why Victory Spirit N was given the drug.

On the heels of the Lou Pena suspension, it does appear that the regulatory authorities are stepping up testing and enforcement efforts. Perhaps this is only an effort to deflect possible criticism that Pena is being singled out for punishment, but it may also serve to send a message to other trainers. How many shoes need to drop before the trainers get that message?

About the author: Donna Smith

Donna SmithI came late to harness racing, very late – like October, 2004. As a long-time fan of the Thoroughbreds (think Carry Back, the 1961 Derby and Preakness winner), I had only a vague knowledge that other forms of racing even existed. But from the first televised race I saw, I was captivated by the Standardbreds, the drivers, and all that gear (the bikes, the burr headpoles, the head numbers). After that first race, I began to learn all I could about harness racing. Much of my early knowledge came via Gary Seibel, formerly with TVG and perhaps our greatest expert on both historical and modern harness racing. From there I soon discovered just how much I could learn from researching on the internet. You see, I live in Texas – a state which has only a limited history of harness racing and NO current racing, breeding, or training of Standardbreds.

Thanks to Cam ’s urging, I recently began contributing some articles to the Winners Wire blog and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to share some of the things I’ve learned. I spent my working life as an accountant so this has been a marvelous transition to something much more challenging.

With no local harness racing connections, I’ve come to appreciate the folks I’ve met on the Winners Wire community. Not only have I gained some new friends who enjoy this sport as much as I do, I’ve also improved my handicapping skills considerably!

I hope you’ll take the time to explore Winners Wire and perhaps join us.