A report by an independent New Mexico laboratory indicates that as many as 60 horses that ran at Santa Anita last year had suspicious postrace urine samples.
International Diagnostics Systems of Las Cruces, N.M., which analyzed almost 500 urine samples from the 27-day Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita last fall, found that the horses had possibly run with a variety of illegal drugs, including cocaine. The laboratory identified 16 chemical products that are banned by state racing officials.
Whereas a suspicious test might not necessarily stand up in court, it could lead to a positive result with further analysis. Some of the samples have been sent to Cornell University, which tests New York race horses, to see if they can be proven positive.
The New Mexico report is the result of a contract the laboratory has with the California division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Assn. and some other horse groups. The laboratory has been testing California samples for the last six months.
The report is scheduled to be presented at a general meeting of the HBPA later this month. The group contracted International Diagnostics to test split urine samples because of rumors that illegal medications were being used by trainers, and because of fears that Truesdail Laboratories in Tustin did not have the sophisticated testing equipment necessary to detect the substances.
Truesdail, the state's main testing laboratory, has found cocaine in the systems of six horses, dating to last summer at Del Mar. There was a 12% incidence of suspicious tests from the Oak Tree meeting, International Diagnostics found. The laboratory also analyzed hundreds of urine samples from horses that ran at Del Mar last summer and found a similar percentage to be suspicious.
Some members of the HBPA, which represents most of California's trainers and owners, have described the use of a backup laboratory as a "witch hunt."
Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) has introduced a bill in the state legislature that would allow the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis to test at least 25% of the horses that run in California.
Len Foote, the executive secretary of the California Horse Racing Board, has been critical of International Diagnostics, which was an unsuccessful bidder for the state's horse testing last year.
Foote also said a couple of weeks ago that he thought Truesdail would find more cocaine positives.
A spokeswoman in Foote's office said Thursday that Foote had "no direct information" about the International Diagnostics report. She also said that Foote did not know if Truesdail has been able to re-test the Oak Tree samples analyzed by International Diagnostics.