The Meadowlands harness racing track in New Jersey has banned two trainers after “massive amounts” of a performance-enhancing substance was found in their horses.
Analysis by the Hong Kong Jockey Club laboratory of samples from several horses were found to have the previously undetected performance-enhancing substance, known as Cobalt.
Two of the horses had very high levels, Meadowlands said. “In both cases those trainers are no longer allowed to participate at our three tracks.”
Meadowlands said that it had determined that when an excessive amount of Cobalt is administered to a horse, it can cause cardiovascular issues, potential nerve problems, thickening of the blood and thyroid toxicity.
Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment has been conducting out of competition testing on horses racing for the past year, in part to determine if any trainers are using illegal substances, but also to gather information pertaining to what racehorses are being given before racing and to implement rules to keep the horses safe.
“We had heard rumors that a substance known as Cobalt was being used because it was difficult to detect and was not being tested for. A large number of these samples have revealed the presence of Cobalt in the horse’s system.”
Based on its research, The Meadowlands has determined that in excessive levels, Cobalt is both a performance enhancing substance and detrimental to the health and well-being of the horse.
“We are quite certain that trainers and veterinarians using Cobalt were well aware of this. Therefore, going forward The Meadowlands has established a threshold level of four times the standard deviation above the normal level of Cobalt. If a blood sample reveals that a horse has a Cobalt level higher than four times the standard deviation above the normal level, the trainer of that horse will be deemed unable to participate at The Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. The odds of a horse having a Cobalt level that exceeds this threshold without having been administered an excessive amount of the substance are roughly 1 in 10,000.”
Chairman Jeff Gural said The Meadowlands was committed to integrity in harness racing.
“We set out on a mission when taking over The Meadowlands to not only provide our customers with that integrity-driven product, but to do what is best for the horse and for the industry,” he said.
“This threshold of Cobalt being implemented for horses competing at The Meadowlands, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs is just one step toward achieving what we set out to achieve. If you are found to be giving your horses an excessive amount of this substance, you are not racing at any of our three racetracks, plain and simple.
“This is not about catching trainers that are cheating, this is about keeping our equine athletes safe and healthy and providing our betting public and all of our participants a product that is on a level playing field.”