Hall of Fame trainer faces complaint after horse tests positive for CBD

A horse takes part in a morning exercise routine at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Wednesday.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

As medication violations are taking front stage in horse racing right now, California had what was believed to be a first when Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally was served a complaint from the California Horse Racing Board after one of his horses tested positive for CBD, which is derived from cannabis.

McAnally, 88, was served over the weekend as the trainer of record and in a separate complaint McAnally and his wife Deborah were served as owners and Geovanni Franco was named as the jockey. The second complaint is only because of the possibility of purse redistribution.

But things get even more confusing. CBD is not specifically listed in a drug category and for that reason is a prohibited substance and carries with it a Class 1 penalty, the most severe of which could lead to any combination of a suspension, fine, loss of purse and disqualification.


Bob Baffert was suspended Monday from entering horses at New York racetracks, pending an investigation into the failed drug test of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.

However, CHRB staff will ask the stewards, who will make the ruling, to consider it a Class 3 violation, according to Mike Marten, spokesman for the CHRB. It’s likely the stewards will take that recommendation but are under no obligation to do so.

McAnally did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The horse is Roses and Candy, who won the third race Nov. 22, 2020. The split sample confirmed the results and the presence of 7-Carboxy-Cannabidiol. CBD is different from THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director of the CHRB, said it was the first CBD violation he can remember.

“CBD is a relatively new problem since hemp cultivation and cannabis byproducts have become widely available,” Arthur said.

Bob Baffert was the favorite to win the race with Medina Spirit, but the 146th Preakness Stakes was won by another Santa Anita trainer, Mike McCarthy.

CBD does not cause psychoactive effects in humans but is believed to help with anxiety, inflammation and has some analgesic effects. There is no peer reviewed research on the use of the drug on horses.

McAnally has not had a medication violation more severe than Class 4 in more than a half-century of training and the last one was in 1998 for methocarbomal, which is a muscle relaxant.

CBD will soon be in the CHRB drug classification list. It is out for public comment and will be voted on by the Board as a Class 3 drug.

Cases such as the one against McAnally are often defended as cases of inadvertent contamination in hay or feed.