By Ray Paulick/Paulick Report
USA: Legendary trainer Bob Baffert claims that two high-profile horses in his barn were “unknowingly and innocently exposed” to a banned substance that wound up in their post-race test samples from May 2 at Oaklawn Park.
Information leaked from initial testing by the Arkansas Racing Commission’s contracted laboratory in late May indicated that Gamine and Charlatan both tested positive for the Class 2 drug lidocaine, according to the New York Times.
Gamine, who subsequently won the G1 Acorn Stakes by 18¾ lengths, won a May 2 allowance race by a neck at Oaklawn before then-Kentucky Derby favourite Charlatan won a division of the G1 Arkansas Derby.
Both horses are unbeaten in three starts but Charlatan has suffered a minor ankle injury that will have him sidelined until after the Kentucky Derby on September 5.
Split samples, sent at Baffert’s request to the Equine Analytical Testing Laboratory at the University of California-Davis, confirmed the findings, as first reported by the New York Times.
Lidocaine is used by veterinarians during lameness examinations to ‘block’ or numb a horse’s limbs; it is also commonly found in ointments and analgesic treatments and patches to alleviate pain in humans.
A statement from Baffert’s attorney, Craig Robertson, said both Gamine and Charlatan were exposed to the lidocaine from a patch worn by a member of the trainer’s staff suffering back pain while tending to the horses at Oaklawn.
“Even though lidocaine is a lawful, widely available therapeutic medication, it was never intentionally administered to either Gamine or Charlatan,” the statement reads. “When test results indicated that trace amounts of lidocaine were found in both horses after their respective races on May 2, Bob Baffert and his team were shocked. Leading up to May 2, both horses were healthy and worked hard to earn their victories that day.
“After investigation,” the statement continues, “it is our belief that both Gamine and Charlatan were unknowingly and innocently exposed to lidocaine by one of Bob’s employees.
“The employee previously broke his pelvis and had been suffering from back pain over the two days leading up to May 2. As a result, he wore a Salonpas patch on his back that he personally applied. That brand of patch contains small amounts of lidocaine.
“It is believed that lidocaine from that patch was innocently transferred from the employee’s hands to the horses through the application of tongue ties by the employee that was handling both horses leading up to May 2.
“What I want to make clear are the following three points: 1) This is a case of innocent exposure and not intentional administration; 2) the levels of Lidocaine found in both Gamine and Charlatan that day were extremely small – 185 picograms for Gamine (in race 7), and 46 picograms for Charlatan (in race 11). A picogram is a trillionth of a gram. 3) It is our understanding that the trace amounts of Lidocaine found in both Gamine and Charlatan would not have had any effect on either horse – much less a performance-enhancing one.
“The extreme sensitivity of modern-day testing can now pick up trace levels of innocent contaminants that have no effect on a horse. This is an issue that regulators of horse racing need to account for and address.
“Based on these facts, we intend on defending the cases involving Gamine and Chalatan before the Arkansas Racing Commission.”
Jimmy Barnes, assistant trainer for Baffert, saddled the horses at Oaklawn in the trainer’s absence. He suffered a fractured pelvis in September 2017.
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