Mullins Is Accused of 'Milkshake' Violation

Trainer Jeff Mullins, who ranks second in wins at Santa Anita and ninth nationally in purses, ran a horse last month in a $150,000 race who tested with excessive sodium bicarbonate levels in his system, track officials said.

The horse, Puppeteer, ran second as the 3-1 second choice in the San Marcos Handicap on Jan. 22 and earned $30,000.

Rick Arthur, a veterinarian who chairs an industry committee that has led a testing program for milkshakes, as the bicarbonate cocktails have been called, said that under a stall-application provision that Mullins signed, the trainer's horses would be subjected to detention-barn surveillance for 30 days. A day before the horses run, they will be isolated in a barn that will be monitored by a camera and security personnel.

Milkshakes, which are said to help a horse's performance by reducing the fatigue factor, have been a source of concern for tracks in California and elsewhere. Last summer, Del Mar became the first thoroughbred track to test regularly for milkshakes in California.

A milkshake offense, under California rules, cannot be dealt with as severely as a drug positive. Drug positives give a trainer the right to a second, independent test, but milkshakes do not remain in a horse's system long enough to do that. Legislation has been introduced in Sacramento that will make a milkshake an exception to the split-sample rule. Under existing rules, Puppeteer's position in the race cannot be changed and the purse cannot be redistributed.

Arthur said that two other trainers at Santa Anita, whom he wouldn't name, have run horses that tested at excessive bicarbonate levels. Arthur said that the track was still evaluating one case, and the other trainer hadn't been interviewed about his situation.

Mullins, who seemed unhappy that the name of one of the other trainers hadn't been released as his was, otherwise declined to comment.

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