As previously reported, 3-year-old Miniconjou collapsed dead of “an apparent heart attack” immediately after the 11th race at Churchill June 11. Again, three years old.

Now, we learn that in his penultimate race, May 6 at Oaklawn, Mini ran on Class 2 (second worst kind) mepivacaine – an anesthetic. In its report filed just yesterday, the Arkansas Commission notes that “trainer Kelly Von Hemel availed his right to do a split sample and waived his right to a hearing.” In other words, guilty as charged. And all the Commission did was disqualify the now-dead horse and redistribute the purse money (Mini had “won” the race and $31K). No fine, no suspension.

(Not that it matters much, but sometime between those races Mini changed hands, with Thomas Amoss the trainer on death day.)

I write this not to imply there was a connection between the drug and Mini’s death (indeed the Kentucky Commission wrote: “no prohibited substances detected; no therapeutic medication detected above threshold concentrations”). Far from it. Fact is, adolescent racehorses collapse and die all the time, and they do, in my opinion, for the same reason they snap legs: their bodies are woefully unready for what they’re being forced to do. No, this is simply to underscore how this poor horse was abused prior to being killed – like, that is, every other casualty of this vile industry.

(Update: The following day, Arkansas did impose penalties on trainer Von Hemel: 15-day suspension, $500 fine. Still, for a Class 2 drugging, laughable.)

Guanabenz is an antihypertensive drug – used to treat high blood pressure. In horseracing, it is a Class B, the second most serious kind. With that in mind, I give you the following recent rulings from the New Mexico Racing Commission:

On Aug 13, trainer Aurelio Valdez’s horse Reining Pesos tested positive for Guanabenz after winning the 2nd race at Albuquerque.

On Aug 13 (yes, same day), trainer Aurelio Valdez’s horse Oh Gollie tested positive for Guanabenz after winning the 5th race at Albuquerque.

On Aug 13 (yes, same day), trainer Aurelio Valdez’s horse Tobleronne tested positive for Guanabenz after finishing 2nd in the 6th race at Albuquerque.

On Aug 13 (yes, same day), trainer Aurelio Valdez’s horse Jes Charge N Go tested positive for Guanabenz after winning the 7th race at Albuquerque.

On Aug 13 (yes, same day), trainer Aurelio Valdez’s horse Mr Racy Perry tested positive for Guanabenz after winning the 10th race at Albuquerque.

On Aug 20, trainer Aurelio Valdez’s horse Deputy’s Echo tested positive for Guanabenz after finishing 2nd in the 4th race at Albuquerque.

On Aug 20 (yes, same day), trainer Aurelio Valdez’s horse El Tarasco 727 tested positive for Guanabenz after finishing 6th in the 6th race at Albuquerque.

On Aug 26, trainer Aurelio Valdez’s horse Royal Queen tested positive for Guanabenz after finishing 3rd in the 1st race at Albuquerque.

To recap: Aurelio Valdez doped eight different horses over just three days. Eight horses. Three days. Oh, and then there was this: Valdez went into this flurry of criminality – yes, this is animal cruelty according to NM law: “negligently mistreating…or tormenting an animal” – with two prior Class B’s over the past year and was already suspended till April of next year. Now, it’s September 2038. On the surface, 16 years appears strong, and apologists will argue that this will in effect end his career. But, I must ask: Why just “in effect”? Why will this reprobate even have a chance of training horses again? What exactly does it take for someone to lose his license in this state, in this industry? These questions are, of course, rhetorical.

Donttemptthisnatural finished second in a race at Ruidoso Aug 13, “earning” $800 for his people in the process. Turns out, however, that the 3-year-old had three times the limit of lidocaine (yes, that again) in his system. For this, trainer/owner Michael Gonzalez received but a one-month suspension and a $750 fine. Why? This was Gonzalez’s “first med violation in 365 days.” Never mind that it was an anesthetic.

Staying in NM: At Albuquerque Aug 27, Confidential Dash “won” the 7th race – and $15,600 for trainer Cervando Garcia Solis and owner Jesus Garcia Solis (I assume they’re related). Problem is, the 3-year-old was jacked up on methylphenidate – brand name, Ritalin, the powerful stimulant used to treat ADHD in humans. This is a Class 1 violation, the worst kind, or, as the Commission puts it, a “zero tolerance drug in New Mexico” (and everywhere horses are raced). But, you know, this is trainer Cervando’s first “Class 1,” so we’re just going to give him 13 months off, and then he’s free to go right back to it. As for the owner, nothing, just a forfeiture of that day’s purse money.

This is horseracing.

Although I am generally loath to villainize individual exploiters – choosing instead to indict the industry – I do occasionally make exceptions. Doug (aka “Drug”) O’Neill has a well-earned reputation as a cheater – with cheating, in horseracing, almost always involving animal abuse. We have documented some of that: here, here. In addition, the $152 million-earning O’Neill is a shameless opportunist, helping to lead low-paid (read: exploited) backstretch workers in counter protest to animal-rights activists. In short, Doug O’Neill is a louse.

Sunday, this came down from the CHRB: “Trainer Doug O’Neill, who started the horse Worse Read Sanchez at Golden Gate on May 1, is suspended 60 days and fined $10,000 for violation of the prohibited substance lidocaine [Class 2] and placed on probation for one year. For good cause 30 days of the suspension is to be stayed.”

What in O’Neill’s resume – besides being fabulously successful and wealthy, that is – led the CHRB to believe he was worthy of a break on the suspension? A joke. Lidocaine, for those who may not know, is an anesthetic – “an agent that causes loss of sensation.” For his part, while not contesting the ruling, O’Neill claims the positive resulted from a “transfer of medication from a member of my staff who was prescribed a medication for Shingles.” Of course. Two by the ways: The 3-year-old Worse continues to be under the yoke of O’Neill, most recently raced Oct 7; Worse’s owner is Reddam Racing, the subject of yesterday’s post on a horse named “Vegan.”