Zilpaterol, marketed as Zilmax, is a feed additive given to close-to-slaughter cattle that according to its maker, Merck, “improves cattle’s natural ability to convert feed into more lean beef.” Pumps them up. In any event, it was never intended for horses, something Merck makes clear on its website: Do not allow horses or other equines access to feed containing zilpaterol. This, according to a North Dakota State University trial (Horse Science News), is what zilpaterol does to horses:
“…three healthy horses were fed zilpaterol. The horses’ physical response was almost immediate. Within 25 minutes after taking zilpaterol, the horses became restless, started sweating profusely and developed muscle tremors. A few minutes later, their heart rates climbed. Muscle tremors lasted for a week and the rapid heart rates lasted for up to two weeks before returning to normal. Blood tests revealed indications of muscle damage. One horse also apparently suffered kidney damage. The horses received just two doses of zilpaterol before researchers halted the trail.”
Genaro Vallejo is a California-based trainer with a handful of bute overages on his record. But it appears that for this multiple graded stakes winner, bute has become child’s play. In April 2012, Vallejo’s horse, Red Dwarf (who won), tested positive for the aforementioned zilpaterol at Golden Gate Fields. Punishment, as it turns out, took 17 months to arrive. For a Class 1 violation (the worst kind), Vallejo, according to the Paulick Report (9/16/13), has been suspended 30 days. For perspective, Bill Finley, a racing writer (and apologist), says (ESPN, 7/5/12), “Anyone using a Class 1 drug belongs in prison.”
Racing officials have once again made a mockery of their supposed recommitment to integrity. In truth, however, you can’t get back to something that never was: Any business that owes its entire existence to exploitation is and will always be necessarily devoid of integrity.