The New York Racing Association has thrown the book at thoroughbred trainer Jeff Mullins. The trainer, was fined $2,500 and suspended seven days for administering a cough remedy to a horse in the security barn before the running of a race this past spring, necessitating a late scratch. For NYRA, this was not the end of the story. Apparently troubled by his lying about the incident and his previous record regarding medication violations, NYRA has decided to ban the trainer for a period of six months. Nothing new there, racetracks have had the right to exclude people for years. What is unique about NYRA's move is they will not allow the transfer of a horse in his stable to a relative, employee or a business associate to get around his ban. That's right, if a horse is in Mullins' stable, it isn't racing in New York. Period. Of course, other than keeping Mullins' horses out of New York, it is business as usual for the trainer and his owners.
We can only hope the day would come when this type of rule would be made on the state commission level and honored nationally. That would be the only way to seriously cut down on the cheating going on with medications. I am not suggesting if a trainer gets a two year suspension that all the horses in his barn get put in jail for the entire period of his suspension, and certainly not for the first violation. However, a ninety day to six month 'vacation' for the horses in the barn of a trainer who receives his third or more suspension may be just what the doctor ordered. Too many times we see owners sending horses to trainers with dubious medication records while other trainers who play by the rules are looking for horses to train.
We are not talking about a therapeutic drug given too close to race time; we are talking about performance enhancers and drugs which have no legitimate purpose in a race horse. We can't hold an owner liable for the first time the trainer gets nailed for a drug positive; being with a trainer when he has a second violation can be excused as giving the trainer the benefit of doubt. However, if you are keeping a horse with or sending a horse to a trainer with two violations you should consider yourself warned; keep a horse with such a trainer and you run the risk of paying for a horse sitting in a stable for three or six months if the trainer gets nailed again.
Maybe then, owners will take more responsibility when selecting a trainer for their horse. We can only dream.