My wife and I own the filly Sweet Notion. She is trained by Ben Wallace and has been named as testing positive for Aminorex after her win at Flamboro Downs on February 23, 2007.
Realizing that our industry can be an ideal incubator for news, rumour and innuendo, I feel it is necessary to lay bare the facts as I know them and to make clear my position on this situation.
I purchased my first Standardbred in 1960 and over the past 47 years I have owned hundreds of horses. I trained and drove horses professionally for 20 years. I have never trained or owned a horse that has had a positive test until Sweet Notion.
Ben Wallace has intermittently trained horses for me for 17 years. I know him to be a consummate professional, a man of integrity, a hard worker whose honesty is unquestioned. In 35 years as a trainer, Ben has an enviable record. One minor incident with a Class IV substance in December 2006, otherwise, a spotless sheet while training a large stable.
On February 23, 2007 Sweet Notion won the 11th race at Flamboro Downs. She had been entered four weeks earlier in the February Freeze sale conducted by Standardbred Canada and held at Western Fair on February 25, 2007. She was subsequently sold for $11,000 and was bought by Mark Etsell.
Ben Wallace was notified on Monday, March 5, 2007 that Sweet Notion had tested positive for Aminorex. He called to inform me later that day. On Tuesday morning March 6, 2007, Ben and I met with Dr. Mike Weber, CPMA research director, in order to learn more about the Aminorex question. He asked Ben to supply all additives given to Sweet Notion, in order to test them. I took everything to him later that morning.
Sweet Notion was being actively treated for issues relating to previous sickness, treatments to help breathing, increase immunity, combat possible allergies, and reduce inflammation. All these supplements and medications were helping to make a healthier race horse and were done by or under the supervision of Dr Kimber Beimler, the veterinarian for the Wallace Stable. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Ben Wallace or his staff would never give a horse medication except under a veterinarian directive.
On Wednesday, March 7, 2007, I contacted Mark Etsell and we decided to make the sale null and void, with a full refund. The filly will be returned to Ben’s barn where she will receive every supplement and treatment in order to duplicate the circumstances leading to the February 23, 2007 race. She will then be retested under ORC supervision.
All this said, the fact remains that the CPMA has called a positive for Sweet Notion. I have no basis to dispute the findings. I know from attending various meetings and conferences during the period when I was OHHA President, the CPMA and Dr. Mike Weber are considered leaders in the world in battling illegal drugs and have an excellent reputation.
The ORC have acted consistently by notifying the trainers and tracks about the positive tests and vigorously investigating prior to a hearing. I know personally all but one person on the ORC. They are all dedicated, knowledgeable individuals who will do the right thing. I support the trainer responsibility rule even with its systemic flaws. I have been part of many debates and committees in past years in the discussion of the fairness of this rule, but no one could put forward a suitable replacement.
I support WEG and David Wilmot in the pursuit of making harness racing the cleanest of the clean, even using “Private Property” rights or mandatory retention when required. Let’s be clear, solving the drug issue (regardless of the outcome of this Aminorex fiasco) is critical to the survival of our industry.
There is no doubt that as an industry, we are in a battle for our future. Let the ORC, WEG, CPMA do their work. OHHA, SBOA, SC and the rest of us should be encouraging them and cooperating in any way possible to dig deeper, get answers, punish wrong doers and exonerate the innocent.
This business/sport is full of wonderful, salt of the earth people, the kind that give our country and industry its strength. Morale is low but now is the time to pull together, stand up and be as tough as we want our horses to be.