Speaking before a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board May 19, vice-chair Oscar Gonzales expressed frustration that prior to the board’s initial Jan. 21 review of medication reclassifications that commissioners were not notified of pending cases involving such drugs.
His comments, coming during the CHRB’s regular monthly teleconferenced meeting Wednesday, following a complaint issued this week by the CHRB against trainer Ron McAnally. The Hall of Famer had a winning horse test positive November 22 at Del Mar for a derivative of CBD, also known as cannabidiol. A hearing related to the positive test, coming from the horse Roses and Candy , is scheduled May 22 at Santa Anita Park.
California does not list CBD among its classified substances, which typically would place it in the highest level of concern: a class 1 drug calling for penalty category A. But as CBD does not contain THC like its cousin marijuana, California regulators are in the process of reclassifying CBD as a Class 3 substance, Penalty Class B.
During the Jan. 21 meeting, Gonzales issued a motion calling for the CHRB to postpone drug classifications until the February meeting. It passed 4-3.
“What does not sit right with me is that the board, one, was not given a proper heads up on that as we went about approving the list of medications,” Gonzales said. “We weren’t told that there could very well be some pending cases. And after that conversation, we gave it a full month, and not once did anybody say, ‘This list that you’re voting on—be aware that there are some cases pending.’
“That could have happened in closed session or we could have brought that up in the public. So that just does not sit right with me. I want you to know that. I also just want to make sure that under no circumstances are the stewards or staff to arbitrarily reclassify a drug, of any kind, unless it has gone through the full rulemaking process.”
Soliciting responses Wednesday from CHRB executive director Scott Chaney, equine medical director Dr. Rick Arthur, and chair Dr. Greg Ferraro, Gonzales asked for their clarification.
Chaney replied that test results before Jan. 1 were confidential prior to filing a complaint, though that rule has since been changed with the passage of Senate Bill 100. That law now results in the reporting of positive tests 72 hours after notifying a trainer or when a split sample is returned, he said.
He added the board could approve or not a stewards’ decision related to a drug positive in Classes 1, 2, or 3.
Arthur said the cannabidiol was first proposed to the CHRB to fall in Penalty Class B in August, three months before the positive test involving the McAnally trainee.
“It very well could have been presented to us, and I simply don’t have a recollection,” Ferraro said in answer to Gonzales’ query. “But I do support your concerns regarding our transparency and the fact that we need to strictly follow a procedure.”
Gonzales called McAnally “an outstanding horseman.” He praised McAnally’s longtime assistant Dan Landers for his due diligence in the positive case and acknowledged jockey Geovanni Franco’s admission of his use of CBT ointment that “could have penetrated the horse’s skin.”
In 2019 the industry’s Racing Medication and Testing Consortium put out a release outlining concerns about CBD, noting its increased over-the-counter availability.
Gonzales’ comments followed the bulk of the meeting, during which mostly routine motions were passed, all without dispute.
During an earlier portion of the meeting before approving dates for Los Alamitos Race Course, Ferraro mentioned the Orange County track had greatly improved its equine safety practices, noting six fatalities this year, one from racing. Four of the six were musculoskeletal, one from an accident, and the other from a “sudden death” episode.
By this same time last year, the track had 13 fatalities from training or racing, a number that rose to 28 by the end of the year, according to CHRB statistics. The CHRB required the track to submit a safety plan last summer. In December, the CHRB initially gave Los Alamitos just a half-year license for its evening Quarter Horse programs before a month later giving them the standard one-year license. The track also runs Thoroughbreds during two short afternoon meets over the course of the year.
Later during the CHRB meeting, Chaney said an entry-review panel has been in place at Golden Gate Fields for approximately three weeks. Entry-review panels, now at all the major horse tracks in California, flag entered horses deemed to be at increased risk of injury, which can lead to their withdrawal from the day’s races.
Golden Gate had 19 fatalities from training or racing in 2020 and another six this year. On March 4, four anti-racing protestors chained themselves together on the racetrack, demanding the track be shut down. This resulted in the cancellation of one race and delayed the full card for hours.