New Mexico Racing Commission Moves Forward with Hair Testing

The hair testing rule took effect on July 1.

Edited press release

The New Mexico Racing Commission will pull hair samples from all qualifiers to this year's All American Futurity and Derby at Ruidoso Downs.

After waiting several months for the opportunity to do drug analysis on horse hair, the New Mexico Racing Commission was quick to put their new rule into use.

The first hair testing excursion by state investigator Leasa Johnson and contract veterinarian Alan Chastain took place on July 11. The new rule, which went into effect on July 1 of this year, allows the NMRC to place a horse on the stewards list for 60 days if it is found to be positive for certain prohibited substances. The rule does not allow for a trainer to be sanctioned with a fine or suspension, and that is based on the difficulty of determining when a drug was administered when tested in hair.

Nevertheless, the rule has already proven to be effective. Of the first six horses that had hair tested, four of the hair samples proved positive for the drug clenbuterol. Two of the horses were from trainer Judd Kearl’s barn. The other two were from the barns of trainers Sal Soto and Jose Barron.

Hair sample testing was a tool deemed necessary by industry stakeholders in New Mexico. New Mexico had 169 drug violations in 2016, a majority of them from Quarter Horses and a significant number of them from trainers based in West Texas.

“Over the past several months, we have seen a number of positives from stables based in Texas, where it is legal to use clenbuterol," said NMRC executive director Ismael "Izzy" Trejo. "We felt that due to the volume of participation in New Mexico from Texas stables, it was unfair for our New Mexico horsemen to compete against horses from Texas that might have been abusing clenbuterol for the anabolic steroid effects, or other prohibited substances.”

With nearly 600 samples taken last year, New Mexico has one of the most intensive out-of-competition testing programs in the United States. New Mexico horsemen know that their horses may tested out of competition anytime during the year, but Texas-based horses can use clenbuterol in Texas before shipping to compete in New Mexico for the the rich futurities and derbies offered in the state.

Two of New Mexico’s most noteworthy races, the upcoming All American Futurity and Derby at Ruidoso Downs, will offer approximately $4.5 million in purses between the two races. To assure racing fans and horsemen that New Mexico is doing its best to create an environment of integrity and to protect the well-being of the horses, a decision was made this past week that the NMRC will be testing a number of hair samples from horses that are nominated to the two races.

The NMRC will also pull hair samples from every All American Futurity and Derby qualifier.

“The owners and trainers that have put their time and money into supporting one of the largest sporting events in New Mexico deserve to have a fair shake at the lucrative purse money offered, and we feel this is one of the tactics we can use to obtain that,” said NMRC chairman Ray Willis.

The NMRC will continue to use hair testing as one of its tools to achieve a level playing field not only for the All American but other big races on the New Mexico stakes calendar such as the September 24 Albuquerque Fall Quarter Horse Championship at Albuquerque Downs. The 440-yard stakes will offer a purse of $250,000 and is one of handful of races that offers its winner a berth in this year's Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos.

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