KHRC restores Sign as winner of Pocahontas Stakes

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission announced Wednesday it had reached a settlement with trainer Al Stall Jr. and owners Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider that will void a prior decision by the state stewards to disqualify the filly Sign from her win in the 2012 Grade II Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs due to positive test for the Class C medication methocarbamol.

The decision by the stewards initially nullified Sign’s four-length win last October 28 as well as a forfeit of the purse money won. Under the settlement, Stall shall be held responsible for both the positive on Sign as well as a second methocarbamol overage that came up on another trainee,Upon Reflection, following a victory in a Nov. 7 maiden claiming race at Churchill. Stall accepts a $500 fine on the first violation and a $1,000 fine on the second but the disqualifications and purse redistributions originally ordered by the stewards are rescinded.

During a hearing on the matter in May, attorneys for the connections of Sign argued that the stewards had misinterpreted changes made last year to state regulations and believed they were bound to order a disqualification. Following a commission meeting on Wednesday, KHRC general counsel Susan Speckert said it was the position of the state now “that the regulation is discretionary and there was a mistake made in interpreting the regulation.”

“I think they are most pleased to just have this behind them,” said Bill Lear, one of the attorneys representing Sign’s connections. “Those who attended the hearing saw how it unfolded and what we ended up with was a result that would have been the result had there not been a misinterpretation of the new regulation. Once that was sorted out, what we agreed to naturally followed. There were some technical changes made by the LRC (Legislative Review Committee) that was not intended to change the substance of (the reg) but the way they got interpreted before we went through this is that they did change the substance of it. And that’s what needed to be sorted out.”

Methocarbamol, also known as Robaxin,  is a muscle relaxant commonly used in therapeutic treatment. Lear said his clients still had “not a clue” on how the overage on Sign happened.

Claiborne Farm is owned by the Hancock family, who have been among the most outspoken members of the Thoroughbred industry against the use of race-day medication.

“Sign had never been given the medication in any form, in pill or liquid,” Lear said. “So how it turned out to be a positive is an unknown. And the proof also was the amount found in the test would not have affected the performance of the horse in any event.”

Sign, a daughter of Pulpit, has been sidelined due since that Pocahontas outing.

In other commission news, equine medical director Dr. Mary Scollay reported during the meeting Wednesday that through 2013 to this point, Kentucky Thoroughbred racing has a fatality rate of 0.94 per 1,000 starts, well below the North American average of 1.92 per 1,000 starts reported for all of 2012. The recently concluded Churchill Downs Spring Meet had three racing fatalities and three training fatalities.