Flagstaff tests positive for bisphosphonate

The California Horse Racing Board published a complaint on May 26th against trainer John Sadler following his sprinter, who won Class 1. Flagstaff , tested positive for bisphosphonate on September 27th after finishing second in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (G2).

A split sample confirmed the presence of bisphosphonate clodronic acid, which, according to the complaint, is a class 1 drug of punishment class A, violating the first offense will result in a suspension of at least one year without extenuating circumstances and a fine of at least a minimum $ 10,000. The class was automatically issued because the drug was not currently categorized by the CHRB, said Darrell Vienna, Sadler’s attorney.

“It is currently classified as class 3,” said Vienna.

Class 3 drugs do not affect performance as much as Class 1 and 2 drugs.

Vienna said Sadler treated Flagstaff with Osphos, the trade name for clodronic acid, in 2019, even though the drug was approved for older horses at the time. Clodronic acid can be used to repair bones in horses with navicular disease, for which it is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in horses 4 years and older.

Race courts and distributors began banning bisphosphonates in 2019 in response to fears the drugs could be used to hide radiological evidence of sesamoiditis in young horses on sale.

Photo: Chad B. Harmon

Coach John Sadler

This is the second bisphosphonate complaint the CHRB filed last month, following a complaint against coach Jeff Metz in late April. In the Metz case, no agreement was reached and no date for the hearing was set. Vienna is also an attorney for Metz, and the attorney said records show that a veterinarian administered the drug to the horse in question years ago when it was not in Metz’s care.

The complaints from Metz and Sadler are about indications that bisphosphonates remain in the horse’s system long after treatment, sometimes years later, and can be released later, as animal studies cited in Vienna show.

“There is no refusal of the administration,” said Vienna about Sadler. “It was legal under FDA approval. The fact that it will be shown for nine months (through 2020) is just the pharmacology of the substance.”

Vienna said he doesn’t know exactly when Flagstaff received Osphos in 2019.

Sadler could face further discipline due to a settlement agreement with the CHRB last June in which the regulator imposed a 60-day suspension for drug violations for 45 days beginning in spring 2019. This agreement was on the condition that he had no grade 1, 2, or 3 drug positives during a one-year probationary period. If he has such a violation, the 45 days remaining after an established hearing would be imposed under that decision.

Flagstaff, a 7-year-old gelding from Lane’s End Racing and Hronis Racing, has ridden 19 times for Sadler in his career, which began in May 2018.

In a separate but related complaint, the CHRB stated that the horse is about to be disqualified and is losing the $ 40,000 it earned in the September 27 race. The gelding was hit from head to toe CZ missile in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship with 2-1 odds.

The complaints were dated April 28, the date the CHRB horse’s medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur, who signed the complaint, said CHRB spokesman Mike Marten.

A hearing date has not been set. Decisions are often only issued weeks or months after the CHRB has made a complaint. Last year the CHRB started to publish complaints before making decisions in order to increase transparency.

Flagstaff has raced four times since the Santa Anita Sprint Championship this year and won the Commonwealth Stakes (G3) at Keeneland April 3rd and the Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by Ford (G1) on Derby Day, May 1st.

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