In an unusual news conference, three prominent trainers told reporters Saturday that their horses have tested positive for the same prohibited medication after victories in the past month.
One of the horses, Lady Blessington, tested positive after Mark Hennig saddled her for a victory worth $66,300 in the Buena Vista Handicap on Feb. 27. Lady Blessington's postrace urine sample contained scopolamine, a depressant, as did the tests for Delacroix, a 31-1 shot who won a maiden claiming race on March 3, and Water Prospector, a favorite who won a maiden claimer on March 9.
Delacroix is trained by Ron McAnally, a member of racing's Hall of Fame. Water Prospector's trainer is Richard Mandella, who won Breeders' Cup races with Kotashaan, the horse of the year, and Phone Chatter at Santa Anita last fall. Hennig, a former assistant to Wayne Lukas, formed his own stable in 1992 and won last year's Santa Anita Derby with Personal Hope.
Mandella said that the three trainers, according to state rules, have sent split urine samples from the horses to independent laboratories for analysis. If those tests also come back positive, suspensions or fines are possible.
"We hope those tests come back negative, which would show that Truesdail (the state testing lab) made a mistake," Mandella said. "The racing board has their job to do, but we've decided to be up front about this because of all the rumors going around."
McAnally said that a test for scopolamine has also turned up positive on a standardbred who raced at Los Alamitos this season.
"When we had that cocaine scandal (five years ago), it wasn't good business for racing," McAnally said. "I'm sure they won't find us guilty this time, either. We haven't done anything wrong."
After the cocaine positives in 1988-89, the California Horse Racing Board eventually dropped charges against several trainers, including Lukas and the late Laz Barrera.
"This is very disturbing," Mandella said, "because we've worked all our lives to make sure our records are clean. I'll do anything in my power to keep this off our record."
Because all three of the horses were stabled at Hollywood Park and vanned to Santa Anita for their races, the trainers believe that the scopolamine, which is described as a natural substance contained in several plants that grow in the United States, could have come from contaminated feed and/or bedding.
"It's odd that all three of the horses were stabled at Hollywood and all three positives came at about the same time," Mandella said. "The horses went over to Santa Anita in different vans. Two different feed companies are involved, but they both buy from the same grower."
Hennig said that he was aware of the positive before Lady Blessington ran in the Santa Ana Handicap, three weeks after her victory in the Buena Vista.
"I had her tested (before the Santa Ana) to make sure that she didn't have the stuff in her system," Hennig said. "I sure didn't want a second positive. If the pre-race test had come back positive, I would have scratched her."
Lady Blessington, who finished fourth in the Santa Ana, has been sent to Kentucky to be bred to Summer Squall. She has won 12 of 27 starts and earned $664,112.
McAnally said that he hasn't had a horse test positive in 30 years. Mandella could recall only one positive on his record, when there was a mix-up between him and a veterinarian about how many days before a race a horse was to be medicated. Hennig said that he has had no positives in the two years he has been a head trainer.
According to Robert Jack, the racing board's equine medical director, scopolamine is used to treat horses that have diarrhea or vision problems. Jack said that for humans the drug is used to prevent nausea that accompanies motion sickness. At certain levels, the drug is capable of causing drowsiness.
Horse Racing Notes
With Fanmore scratched from today's $250,000 San Luis Rey Stakes because of a leg injury, Bien Bien has been made the 3-5 morning-line favorite. . . . Chris Antley sent Bold Windy to the front early and the 5-year-old mare out-finished Angi Go for a 2 3/4-length victory in the $76,200 Santa Lucia Handicap. Bold Windy, trained by Gary Jones, carried 117 pounds, two less than the highweight and favorite, Alysbelle, who was third, beaten by 6 3/4 lengths. Bold Windy has won seven times, with five seconds, in 20 starts.