Downs adds 6 months to trainer's suspension

Published February 10, 2006

The Tampa Bay Downs Board of Stewards suspended trainer Don Rice an additional six months after a third horse tested positive for a baking-soda solution believed to help horses run faster and longer.

Rice was serving a 30-day suspension after two of his horses tested positive for excessive carbon dioxide or "milkshaking," a potent cocktail in which trainers force-feed alkaline agents, typically through a tube, directly into a horse's stomach to aid in stamina and recovery and potentially mask other illegal drugs.

He is the first to be penalized since Tampa Bay Downs began random, prerace testing for milkshakes in January. The Tampa Bay Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association supports the testing, but the track cannot fine trainers or redistribute purse money even if they are suspended.

Under the policy, Rice will be denied access to the track and owners must transfer their horses to another trainer. He will be eligible to return to the Downs on Sept. 6, meaning he will miss the track's 2005-06 season.

"The additional six-month penalty may seem harsh, but that's the penalty for three violations," Downs vice president and general manager Peter Berube said in a statement. "Two independent labs confirmed the three positives, which happened on Jan. 27, Jan. 29 and Jan. 31, and the stewards issued their ruling (on Thursday)."

Tampa Bay Downs sends its samples from a randomly selected race each day to Bay Care Laboratory of Clearwater, with split samples sent to On Track Laboratory in Pompano Beach and the University of Ohio Racing Laboratory or the University of California Testing Laboratory.

The horses with positive pre-race tests were Twisted Cord (race eight on Jan. 27), Honest Chance (race nine on Jan. 29) and Headline (race five on Jan. 31). The best finish among those horses was second.