California's augmented postrace drug testing program has been put in limbo by a shake-up in the management of International Diagnostic Systems of St. Joseph, Mich.
IDS had been running a series of sophisticated new tests to detect the possible use of cutting-edge drugs in California race horses since early July. That work was contracted for by the individual tracks and intended to complement the routine testing of the state facility, Truesdail Laboratories of Tustin.
Such additional testing by a laboratory other than Truesdail was a key recommendation of a select committee of racing industry leaders made last April.
"It is very distressing that this would happen now, just when we thought we had our supplementary testing program in place," said Rosemary Ferraro of the California Horse Racing Board. "The supplementary testing has been temporarily suspended, but everyone should know that samples are being retained for testing later on."
Former IDS President Charles Prange and chief chemist John McDonald, who maintained high profiles in California while setting up their testing contract, were fired more than a week ago. IDS Vice President Deborah Morris, who founded the company with Prange in 1985, has taken over as president, apparently with the backing of officials at Union Carbide, the chemical company that owns a large interest in IDS.
Morris said that Prange and McDonald were ousted over disagreements regarding the direction of the company.
"The board felt that the company should be involved in the research and development of testing products, rather than soliciting business as testing facility," Morris said.
Neither Prange nor McDonald could be reached for comment.
The Racing Board will be hearing a report on the IDS situation Friday at its meeting in Del Mar, and at the same time will review bids for the supplementary testing contract.
In the meantime, questions persist over the results of IDS testing of California samples. As one commissioner noted, "(IDS) talked a lot about what they could find, but I haven't heard about any positives at all."
The most exciting new face of the summer season at Del Mar belongs to the 2-year-old filly Ten K, a gray puff of smoke who has won both of her races without the slightest bit of urging from her jockey, Gary Stevens.
"It reminds me of Pat Day riding Easy Goer," Stevens said after Ten K's most recent victory last Saturday. "I haven't come close to asking her for any real run yet. There is no telling how good she could be."
Stevens recalled his first encounter with Ten K at the barn of trainer W. L. Proctor one morning last month.
"Willard told me that she hadn't been asked to show any speed yet in any of her works," Stevens said. "So he wanted me to let her run a little bit in the last quarter mile. By the time we got to the quarter pole, she was moving so fast I didn't dare let her loose. The first thing I said to Willard when I got back was, 'I know how fast she went, but believe me, she still hasn't been asked for speed.' "
Leonard Lavin, who bred Ten K, was dazzled by her debut Aug. 6, a 4 1/2-length victory in 1:10 for six furlongs.
"Wasn't that something?" said Lavin when he saw Proctor the next day. "Did you watch the replay?"
"I didn't need to see any replay," Proctor replied. "The real thing was impressive enough for me."
Both men have scaled the heights before, so their reactions are meaningful. In their most famous collaboration, Lavin put up $100,000 and Proctor got the mare Convenience ready to win a $250,000 match race against Typecast at Hollywood Park in 1972.
Ten K certainly has the right breeding. Her sire, 13-year-old Private Account, has become a hot property. Besides the undefeated champion filly Personal Ensign, his recent progeny include major stakes winners Private Terms, Personal Flag and Classy Cathy.
Ten K is the first foal of Campanero, a daughter of Foolish Pleasure, the 1975 Kentucky Derby winner. More to the point, Campanero is closely related to the best colt Lavin ever raced, Relaunch, the 1979 Del Mar Derby winner.
Lavin, chairman and CEO of Alberto-Culver Co., names many of his horses after marketing and business terms. Cash Cow, Header Card and Executive Row all have carried his Glen Hill Farm colors. So a ten k is not, in this case, a 10-kilometer run. Rather, it is a document filed annually with the Securities Exchange Commission describing the company's financial status.
At Wednesday's close of business, Alberto-Culver was held at $47 a share on the New York Stock Exchange and Ten K was doing just fine, right on schedule for her next start in the $200,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3.
Besides Ten K, the 2-year-old that has impressed the most people at Del Mar this summer has been Jack Kent Cooke's Single Dawn, who broke his maiden by five lengths last Sunday.
Making the second start of his career, Single Dawn ran the mile--same distance as the $200,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 13--in 1:36 2/5.
"I know the track was playing fast," said Eddie Gregson, who trains runner-up Hitchcock Woods. "But 1:36 2/5 might be fast enough to win the Futurity. I consider my colt the best 2-year-old I've ever trained, and the winner just left him."
Single Dawn is trained by Ron McAnally, who has never had much luck in the Del Mar Futurity.
In 1960, he sent out favored Donut King, who finished third with considerable trouble in traffic.
In 1964, he paid half of a $5,000 late fee out of his own pockets to make Ky. Front eligible to the race. Ky. Front had to break from the outside of a 17-horse field going six furlongs and did well to finish third, beaten by less than a length.
In 1972, McAnally finished second with the fast but unsound Lucky Mike.
After watching Hitchcock Woods trounced by Single Dawn, Gregson was feeling sorry for himself. After a good Santa Anita meeting and an even better Hollywood Park season, Gregson's runners were suddenly on a one-for-23 skid at Del Mar.
"I'd have trouble winning a fixed race," the trainer moaned.
But half an hour later, Gregson watched in stunned silence as Dogwood Stable's Thrice won at odds of 21-1.
"Yes, it was certainly a nice surprise," Gregson said.
Sticking around to watch Thrice almost made Gregson late for a flight from Los Angeles Sunday night that took him to Virginia, where he met his newest client, Hubertus Liebrecht.
Liebrecht, who heads Boehringer Ingelheim, Europe's largest pharmaceutical company, has bought the old Audley Farms, once a power on the Mid-Atlantic thoroughbred circuit.
"The man has three passions--his company, his horses and travel," Gregson said. "He speaks five languages, has lavish farms in Brazil and Spain, and wants a trainer in California so he can have a horse run in San Francisco once in a while. He's what I'd call a perfect owner."
On the philanthropic front:
--Gary Stevens was in Seattle Tuesday, auctioning personal memorabilia at a fund-raiser for a thoroughbred industry scholarship.
Stevens is still a star in the Northwest, where he set a single-season record of 232 victories at Longacres Racetrack in 1984.
--Lavin and his wife, Bernice, have contributed more than $1 million for a one-year study of injuries suffered by jockeys and exercise riders. The research will be conducted by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
The Lavins have a personal motivation for their generosity. They are close friends of jockey Jackie Fires, brother of Earlie Fires, longtime Glen Hill stable rider. Jackie Fires was injured in a racing spill in 1977 and has been wheelchair-bound since.