Horse Racing

NY Commission Upholds Suspension Due to Forte Positive

The New York State Gaming Commission Dec. 4 upheld a hearing officer’s recommendation to enforce a 10-day suspension and $1,000 fine for trainer Todd Pletcher from a meloxicam positive in a post-race test from Forte   following the 2022 Hopeful Stakes (G1).

The Hopeful was Forte’s first grade 1 win, which he parlayed into two more grade 1 wins in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and eventual honors as Eclipse champion 2-year-old male.

It would not be until spring 2023 when the gaming commission would report the suspension and fine for Pletcher due to a positive finding of the non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug meloxicam in a post-race test. New York stewards additionally announced the disqualification of Forte and a redistribution of the Hopeful purse. Gulfport , who is owned by Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt, Jackpot Farm, Whispering Oaks Farm, and Coolmore Stud, was placed first and Blazing Sevens  placed second.

Pletcher and Forte’s owners, Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola, both filed appeals, and a stay of the penalties was granted. The appeals were consolidated into one hearing that was conducted July 20 by hearing officer Clark Petschek, who issued a Sept. 30 report that upheld the New York stewards’ ruling.

“The commission duly deliberated and considered this request and determined by unanimous vote to sustain the hearing officer’s report and recommendations,” said gaming commission chair Brian O’Dwyer during the Dec. 4 meeting. “I know, however, that it has been the practice and continues to be the practice of the stewards to determine the time and place of the suspension. We leave that to the discretion of the stewards as we have done in the past, asking them to take into consideration all relevant matters.”

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Repole said the fight over the suspension isn’t over, and he’s ready to put a decision in the hands of a jury.

“I would have gone to court seven months ago but we had to follow this process,” he said. “Look, no one is shocked by this. The kangaroo court has spoken. They spent seven months making this decision, and they could have made it 10 minutes before we had the hearing.”

Repole said supporting his position is an opinion from the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which governs horse racing medication testing and rules enforcement nationwide, that the meloxicam positive would not be a violation under its rules.

“If this was a violation according to HISA, then I wouldn’t be fighting this,” he said. “But now we’ll make our case to a jury. New York Gaming has its opinion, we have HISA’s opinion, and we are confident that in a real court common sense will prevail.”

During a suspension, a trainer is prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in New York pari-mutuel racing. Every horse is denied the privileges of the grounds and shall not participate in pari-mutuel racing in New York State, that is owned or trained by the suspended trainer, or by any individual who serves as his or her agent or employee during the suspension period: or for which include any arrangements to care for, train, enter, race, invoice, collect fees or other payments, manage funds, employ or insure workers, provide advice or other information or otherwise assist with any aspect of the training of such horses.


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