ALBUQUERQUE — A horse trainer has been suspended from racing in New Mexico for 21 years and fined $23,000 after four horses he trained tested positive for an exotic, potent painkiller.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that the New Mexico Racing Commission recently announced sanctions against Jeffrey Heath Reed, whose five first-place finishers in May 25 qualifying races for the $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity tested positive for the drug dermorphin.
Dermorphin, said to be 40 times more powerful than morphine, is derived from the skin of a tree frog native to South America. Like other painkillers, it can be used illicitly to mask an injured horse's pain, but at the risk of a catastrophic breakdown that can injure or kill the horse and its rider.
Racing Commission executive director Vince Mares said problems with urine and blood samples from a fifth dermorphin-positive horse trained by Reed led stewards to dismiss that case.
Two of Reed's dermorphin-positive horses also tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that can build muscle, boost red blood cell production and increase bone density.
Reed was given a 20-year suspension for the dermorphin counts, and an additional year for the stanozolol infractions.
At a weekend hearing at Zia Park Racetrack in Hobbs, stewards also sanctioned trainer Carlos Sedillo, who had two horses test positive for dermorphin during the futurity trials.
Sedillo was suspended for five years, fined $10,000 and ordered to forfeit $4,200 in purse money.
Reed and Sedillo have 20 days to appeal their sanctions to the governor-appointed New Mexico Racing Commission, which has been cracking down on horse doping.
Reed, Sedillo and two other prominent trainers whose horses flunked drug tests in May — John H. Bassett and Carl W. Draper — were sanctioned under the old regulations because new regulations did not take effect until July 3.
Earlier this month, Bassett, who has trained two winners of Ruidoso Downs' prestigious $2.4 million All American Futurity, was suspended from racing for 10 years, fined $10,000 and ordered to return purse money after two of his horses tested positive for dermorphin.
Draper was suspended for 300 days, fined $6,000 and ordered to forfeit his winnings after four of his horses tested positive in May for ractopamine — a substance that mimics the effects of steroids. Though used primarily to build muscle mass in pigs, ractopamine can be used illegally to build muscle in horses and increase their strength and endurance.