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Hall of Fame horse trainer Todd Pletcher denies any wrongdoing after receiving a 10-day suspension from the New York State Gaming Commission. The ruling comes after Forte was disqualified from a victory in 2022 for testing positive for a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
New York-based sports/turf writer Bob Ehalt of BloodHorse was first to report the news.
Forte, last year’s champion two-year-old Thoroughbred male, won the Hopeful Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course on Sept. 5, 2022. He has since been disqualified, as determined on Thursday, which elevates Gulfport from second to first.
The disqualification is a result of Forte testing positive for meloxicam during a post-race exam. There is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the use of meloxicam with Thoroughbred racehorses.
Forte must forfeit $165,000 in earnings from the first-place prize money. Pletcher will serve a 10-day suspension and pay a $1,000 fine, barring appeal.
Todd Pletcher maintains his innocence.
Forte came into our care on March 25, 2022, and he has never been prescribed or administered meloxicam. We did an internal investigation and could not find an employee who had used the drug.— Todd Pletcher, via BloodHorse
Pletcher, Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable plan to appeal the decision. Mike Repole will file a lawsuit if the disqualification stands.
I’ve spent $20 million buying horses. I’ll spend $20 million fighting it in court.
You talk about epic incompetence, this defies epic incompetence. This renegade bullying needs to stop.— Mike Repole of Repole Stable, via BloodHorse
Steven Barker, a chemist and expert witness for the connections, says that Forte was found with 500 picograms (.5 nannograms) of the medication in his system. Should that truly be the case, such a low level of meloxicam would not impact a horse’s performance. Rather, it would reflect a contamination, not a direct administration.
The appeal will take place in front of a hearing officer. Only he/she can support Pletcher’s claims and rule that the penalties be dropped.
The 10-day suspension and $1,000 fine are standard for trainers that have a horse test positive for meloxicam. That does not mean that Pletcher is going to let it stand as he continues to deny ever administering meloxicam to Forte.
Forte, who opened Kentucky Derby day as the betting favorite, was scratched a few hours before post time. However, the scratch had nothing to do with the positive test. Two separate incidents.
Forte had a bruised foot, and will not be ready for the Preakness Stakes later this month. He will attempt to run in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.
A date for Pletcher’s appeal has yet to be determined.