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Illegal substance - Biancone's Kenneland outfit

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  • Illegal substance - Biancone's Kenneland outfit

    Last fall it was the Saratoga's harness track (Saratoga Gaming and Raceway) hit with the controversy of a stable using highly illicit cobra venom. Now comes news of venom discovered in Patrick Biancone's Keeneland stable.

    Cobra venom said to be in Biancone barn
    Daily Racing Form July 4, 2007
    By MARTY McGEE

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One of the materials confiscated by Kentucky Horse Racing Authority investigators during the June 22 search of three Keeneland barns occupied by trainer Patrick Biancone was cobra venom, a substance that can be used as a painkiller, a source close to the investigation confirmed this week.

    The cobra venom, which is barred by state regulation from racetrack grounds, was in crystalline form and was found in a refrigerator in one of the tack rooms used for the storage of supplies, said the source, adding the substance was in a small container labeled "Toxin." Snake venom has been known to be injected to deaden or "block" a horse's joint or nerve, and in a case settled last week in Saratoga County, N.Y., two Standardbred horsemen pled guilty of doing just that before a race last October at Saratoga Raceway.

    The June 22 search of Biancone's barns was conducted after one of Biancone's horses who raced in Kentucky tested positive for a derivative of caffeine and for a derivative of an inhalant, both of which are banned for raceday use, according to the source. Biancone also has a pending medication case in Southern California. The horse Iron Butterfly, trained at the time by Biancone, tested positive for salmeterol, a bronchodilator, in a January race at Santa Anita.

    Biancone declined comment on the Kentucky matter Wednesday. Biancone's veterinarian, Dr. Rod Stewart, had his truck searched when the barns were raided and is a subject in the investigation, according to the source, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Efforts to reach Stewart on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

    The first step in the legal process in this case is a stewards' hearing, but one has not yet been scheduled, chief steward John Veitch said Wednesday at Churchill Downs. The next possible step would be a hearing before the racing authority, after which the case could go into the court system, meaning resolution could be months, if not years, away.

    Pending a hearing, Biancone is free to run horses in Kentucky and elsewhere. At the time of the search, he had about 75 horses spread among three barns at Keeneland. With racing at Churchill set to end Sunday, he soon will shift his main base of operations to Saratoga while also maintaining a string at Keeneland.

    Cobra venom is a powerful neurotoxin that blocks the neural pathways that transmit pain to the brain. The substance, which is used by researchers in extremely minute quantities because of its toxicity, is considered a Class 1 drug under the Racing Commissioners International classification system. Class 1 drugs are defined as having no therapeutic value for a horse and a high potential to affect racing performance. At present, no laboratory officials have confirmed that a test exists to detect an administration of the drug. Researchers, however, are known to have been working on a test for the past year.

    The use of cobra venom to block pain has long been rumored in the racing industry, although very little evidence of its administration has emerged. Late in June, however, William Barrack, 68, and Keith Barrack, 43, of Beacon, N.Y., pleaded guilty to a felony charge of interference with a domestic animal in Saratoga District Court after admitting that they administered cobra venom to a horse racing at Saratoga Raceway, the harness track, last October. They are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 31.

    Biancone, 55, has been training for more than 30 years, having started in his native France in the 1970's. He moved to Hong Kong in the 1990's and was suspended there in 1999 after two of his horses tested positive for banned medications, and eventually made his way to the United States.

    Biancone was the leading trainer at Keeneland at the 2006 fall meet and the 2007 spring meet, the first two meets that Polytrack has been used as the primary racing surface.

  • #2
    He should be banned for life. What a heartless ........

    Comment


    • #3
      I've never met Biancone and I don't know anyone who knows him well... but for some reason he always came across to me as one of the "better" guys. I never realized all the pending drug cases he has on his record as of late.
      Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Texarkana View Post
        I've never met Biancone and I don't know anyone who knows him well... but for some reason he always came across to me as one of the "better" guys. I never realized all the pending drug cases he has on his record as of late.
        Perhaps you do not know his nickname...."The Butcher".
        To get in the winners' circle you must first get into the gate

        Comment


        • #5
          Shame that people don't have the honesty of horses.

          Not to prejudge the issue, but I really can't think of an "innocent" reason to have cobra venom in your barn.

          Someday, I would like to have a racehorse myself for the fun of it (and give him/her a home for life after retirement from the track). But what I see of trainer after trainer makes me hesitate. Unfortunately, my #1 choice (Shug McGuahey, don't think that's spelled right but no time to look it up at the moment) isn't available as a public trainer.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by QHJockee View Post
            Perhaps you do not know his nickname...."The Butcher".
            Nope... never heard that. Like I said, he's someone I've had absolutely NO dealings with. Not even remotely. It's surprising, actually. Guess that's probably a good thing after reading this!
            Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

            Comment


            • #7
              He was warned off and asked to leave Hong Kong for drug positives in the 90's.

              A shame, as he was obviously a talented trainer, his handling of the great filly All Along, who was HOY in the US and Europe in the same year, was nothing short of impressive, winning what were possibly the four biggest Turf races in the world at that time (Prix de L'Arc, Canadian Intl, Turf Classic, Washington DC Intl), all in the space of 6 weeks.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by QHJockee View Post
                Perhaps you do not know his nickname...."The Butcher".
                ...meaning what?

                Comment


                • #9
                  The irony is that Biancone is one of the elite guys training expensive sales horses and stakes horses that so many fans seem to think is pure because he doesn't use Lasix! His current troubles are not completely surprising to people who have followed his career from continent to continent.

                  The good guys are out there and many of them train only claiming horses. To find them, a person needs to put the Bloodhorse away and talk to people in the business. Also, at least here in California, the CHRB will let a prospective owner know about any official complaint about a trainer on file and its rulings if there are any. It takes a little legwork but its absolutely worth it for the good of your horse and your own reputation.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Louisville Courier Journal July 5 2007 "Biancone horse's drug test probed"

                    [Churchill Downs stewards] also declined comment on a Daily Racing Form online report that said one of the materials confiscated in the barn search was cobra venom, barred by state regulation from racetrack grounds. Snake venom can deaden joint or nerve pain.

                    Drf.com reported Biancone's barns were searched after one of his horses tested positive for a derivative of caffeine and a derivative of an inhalant, which are prohibited from being in a horse's system during a race.
                    When a horse is tested after a race, including all winners and at least one other horse, the urine and blood samples taken are divided in two. In Kentucky, the first goes to Iowa State University's laboratory. If there is a finding of an illegal drug or medication, the other sample, known as the "split," is sent to a second lab for confirmation testing. If it also comes back positive, stewards conduct a hearing with the trainer and mete out any sanctions.

                    Kentucky chief state steward John Veitch said the split sample [for Biancone's horse's at Churchill - not Keeneland] has not been tested. He said it will be sent out tomorrow, citing delays caused by the weekend and yesterday's holiday.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The cobra venom, which is barred by state regulation from racetrack grounds, was in crystalline form and was found in a refrigerator in one of the tack rooms used for the storage of supplies, said the source, adding the substance was in a small container labeled "Toxin."
                      Someone's either not so bright or not so nervous about using illicit substances. Biancone might want to switch to a better labeling system.

                      What's Biancone's immigration status? If he's on an H1-B, he might be looking for a new training venue. I won't miss him.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Wondering if G Fox will end up with some more of Biancones horses?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A couple of questions for those better informed than me:

                          1. Any word on what led to the search?

                          2. Has Biancone been based in KY for a long time (I thought he was elsewhere before)? Or perhaps has he increased his operations in KY recently?

                          (I'm just curious. I like a good story.)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by miss_critic View Post
                            ...meaning what?
                            Meaning he is famously known for breaking down horses left and right. Head to head, he has probably had much better horses than Frankel or Shug have ever had, and few of them have made it to the races.

                            I do agree with JER, and was wondering myself who designed the labeling system. Would be better off to put it in an old coke bottle with a squirt top and pretend it was DMSO or something. I've seen several cheats in my time on the track and you have to be a lot craftier than the Butcher is.
                            To get in the winners' circle you must first get into the gate

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              JER, the search was done after the horse tested positive; I would imagine that even though there isn't a test for the venom as of yet, what the horse did test positive for (i.e. the delivery method or some other marker) led them to think that it might be a possibility.

                              Or, they may simply have been looking for extra large doses of No Doz given the caffeine finding.

                              Biancone was out here in California for a while, and still had a string at Hollywood Park last fall. Of course, then he ran afoul of the medications rules here, too.
                              Congratulate me! My CANTER cutie is an honor student at Goofball University!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Beezer View Post
                                JER, the search was done after the horse tested positive; I would imagine that even though there isn't a test for the venom as of yet, what the horse did test positive for (i.e. the delivery method or some other marker) led them to think that it might be a possibility.
                                According to the OP
                                tested positive for a derivative of caffeine and for a derivative of an inhalant
                                Janet

                                chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I asked the question because several articles about the raid said that the reason for the raid had not been specified -- drf.com had reported the other positive test via an anonymous source but it was not confirmed by the KHRA or any other entity. I see now that the Churchill stewards acknowledged the test yesterday.

                                  A report from an anonymous source is not proof. The bottle of 'toxin' sounds so stupid to me that I wondered what the real story was. But in this case, the real story is really that dumb -- this creep didn't need anyone setting him up.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by QHJockee View Post
                                    I do agree with JER, and was wondering myself who designed the labeling system. Would be better off to put it in an old coke bottle with a squirt top and pretend it was DMSO or something. I've seen several cheats in my time on the track and you have to be a lot craftier than the Butcher is.
                                    Personally, I think putting it in a coffee mug labelled "Biacone" on it with a nice steaming cuppa in it and setting it within his reach would be a lovely thing to do.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      A lengthy article in the DRF:7-6-07 "Preventing venom use 'difficult'"

                                      excerpt

                                      In fact, a trainer or veterinarian who uses cobra venom is almost certainly aware that the racing industry has no means to detect it. And although only one company in the United States is widely known to sell the substance - Miami Serpentarium Laboratories in Florida - veterinarians can legally purchase cobra venom simply by having their license validated.

                                      The possession of cobra venom is not a crime, although every major racing jurisdiction has banned its use. Cobra venom is not classified as a controlled substance by the Food and Drug Administration, and there are no laws that would prohibit someone from using the substance as long as a crime is not committed.
                                      Researchers can easily obtain snake venom from Miami Serpentarium Laboratories, which has been selling venom since 1947. Its founder, William Haast, is considered a pioneer in the field, and from 1947 until 1985, the laboratory doubled as a tourist attraction. Visitors could watch as Haast milked venomous snakes by forcing open their jaws and getting the snakes to strike a thin membrane covering a test tube.

                                      Nancy Haast, the administrator of the laboratory, said that the company sells venom only to researchers, universities, and veterinarians. The venom has been used to research everything from a polio cure to cancer treatment, and anti-venom snakebite serums can be produced only from a sample of the venom itself. The venom is sold by the milligram, and veterinarians need only to provide a license, which the company checks to see it is valid.

                                      "Our policy is that we don't sell to anyone off the street," Haast said. "We could. I don't think there are any laws. It's such a specialty biochemical field."

                                      Cobra venom appears to be distinct among snake venoms. Most other snake venoms are not neurotoxins, but rather poisons that affect the cardiovascular system or the localized area of the bite. The Miami serpentarium sells cobra venom for approximately $60 a milligram, Haast said. Since the exact dosage for a horse is unclear, it is uncertain how much a specific cobra venom shot would cost.
                                      Marketed cobra venom typically comes in a crystallized form. The poison is converted into an injectable by mixing a small sample in a saline solution. But once the mix is made, the potency of the venom quickly degrades.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by QHJockee View Post
                                        Meaning he is famously known for breaking down horses left and right. Head to head, he has probably had much better horses than Frankel or Shug have ever had, and few of them have made it to the races.
                                        Wow, didn't know this. Although his fancy 2 YOs rarely are seen at 3, so I guess it shouldn't surprise me.

                                        Comment

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