A winning horse trained by Bobby Frankel, who was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame last year, has tested positive for morphine at Santa Anita and Frankel may be facing a suspension.
The horse in question is Nimble Mind, a 4-year-old filly who was a one-length winner of a $46,000 allowance race on Jan. 3.
The California Horse Racing Board issued a complaint against the 54-year-old Frankel Thursday, and a hearing before the Santa Anita stewards is scheduled for April 3.
Should there be a suspension, Frankel plans to appeal. One of his arguments is that California authorities treat low quantities of a drug the same as high dosages.
"It's probably going to cost me a lot of money, but this isn't right," Frankel said. "They found 35 nanograms [of morphine] in my horse. You know what a nanogram is? That's one-billionth of a gram.
"You can get a very small amount of morphine from just a few poppy seeds. If you ate a Danish with poppy seeds on it, they'd find about 11,000 nanograms of morphine in you."
Nimble Mind, who had won only one of eight starts in France before Frankel started training her, finished second in her U.S. debut at Hollywood Park in December and was highly regarded by handicappers going into the Santa Anita race. She went off the favorite in the one-mile grass race and paid $5.40 to win, earning $25,300.
Nimble Mind races for her breeder, Juddmonte Farms, whose owner, Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid Abdullah, hired Frankel to train his U.S. horses in 1990. Juddmonte has won Eclipse Awards for best breeder in 1995 and best owner in 1992. Frankel won an Eclipse for training in 1993, when his barn led the nation with purses of $8.8 million.
Racing laboratories don't often see morphine. One of Bob Hess Jr.'s horses tested positive for the painkiller after a race at Hollywood Park last year. Hess argued that the horse had been contaminated, and one of his grooms acknowledged at a hearing that before feeding the horse he had been using heroin, which can show up as morphine in urine testing. Hess lost his appeal and served a 60-day suspension.
For the first time since the series began in 1984, the Breeders' Cup has increased one of its purses. This year's Breeders' Cup Classic, to be run at Woodbine in suburban Toronto on Oct. 26, jumps from $3 million to $4 million, with the winner earning $2.08 million.
The increase brings the Breeders' Cup even with the Dubai World Cup, a new race, which is being run in the United Arab Emirates on March 27 for a purse of $4 million. The winning horse in Dubai will earn $2.4 million.
In recent years, the Breeders' Cup Classic has lost its distinction as the world's richest race. The purse for the Japan Cup in Tokyo has gone over the $3-million mark several times.
Last year, Cigar earned $1.56 million for winning the Classic. Second place, which used to be worth $650,000, will now pay $800,000. Third is good for $480,000, fourth $224,000 and fifth $80,000. The rest of the $4-million purse--$336,000--consists of awards for the nominators and breeders of horses that finish in the first three positions.
"We have been evaluating the desirability of a purse increase for several years," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., executive director of the Breeders' Cup. "[The increase] . . . will demonstrate vitality in our overall program."
The purses for the rest of the Breeders' Cup races will remain the same--five races at $1 million apiece and the $2-million Breeders' Cup Turf.
"We will continue to evaluate the possibility of further [purse] increases," Van Clief said.
Northern Spur has acquired the reputation of a horse who misses more races than he makes.
Shortly after trainer Ron McAnally's male grass champion shipped from California to Gulfstream Park on Tuesday night, he developed a case of colic. McAnally said Thursday that Northern Spur hasn't been able to train for two days and will not race in Saturday's $300,000 Pan American Handicap.
McAnally has tried to run Northern Spur four times since he won the Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park in October, but his only race has been a fourth-place finish in the San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 19. A fever knocked Northern Spur out of the Hollywood Turf Cup in December, and he was unable to run in the San Marcos Handicap at Santa Anita in January when rain forced the race off the grass.
Northern Spur would have been the high weight in the Pan American with 122 pounds. Now that distinction goes to Awad, who will carry 121 pounds as he tries to win the stake for the second consecutive year.
Seven other horses are expected to run, among them Celtic Arms, who will race for the first time since the death last week of his trainer, Rodney Rash, in Los Angeles. Rash's assistant, Ben Cecil, will train Celtic Arms, along with most of the barn's horses. Celtic Arms gave Rash his last victory, in the Gulfstream Park Budweiser Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 17.
Horse Racing Notes
The winners of the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup won't break the record for earnings by a horse in one day. Spend A Buck had a $2.6-million day when he won the Jersey Derby in 1985. Of his total, $600,000 was purse money and $2 million a bonus that went to any horse that swept three races at Garden State Park and won the Kentucky Derby. . . . Privity, trained by Bobby Frankel and carrying 117 pounds, is the co-high weight, with the Bill Mott-trained Northern Emerald, in Sunday's $200,000 Orchid Handicap at Gulfstream. Privity, third in the La Canada at Santa Anita, will be ridden by Shane Sellers in the race that another California shipper, Exchange, won last year. . . . Mott has already broken his own record for most wins at a Gulfstream meet. . . . Jewel Princess, who won the La Canada, is a probable for Sunday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita. . . . Frankel, who has won with about one out of every three starters at Santa Anita this season, took Thursday's feature when The Exeter Man got his third win of the meet. Frankel has 16 winners this winter. Kent Desormeaux, who rode The Exeter Man, had two other winners on the card. . . . Desormeaux will be at the Fair Grounds Sunday, to ride Del Mar Dennis in the $200,000 New Orleans Handicap. Another California shipper in the stake is Gold And Steel, who will be ridden by Corey Nakatani. . . . Semoran, winner of the Foster City Stakes at Bay Meadows, will run next in either the San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 17 or the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park on March 30.