The Maryland Racing Commission unanimously upheld yesterday a 15-day suspension for veteran trainer Charlie Hadry. In so doing, the commission upheld the absolute-insurer rule that has become critical in deciding cases involving drug violations in Maryland.
Hadry was suspended for 15 days by the stewards after one of his runners, Subtle Step, tested positive for a trace amount of cocaine after winning a maiden-claiming race at Pimlico Race Course March 15. Hadry appealed the penalty pending yesterday's hearing, which was held at Pimlico.
Despite evidence and testimony that implicated a stable employee, the commission backed the stewards and ordered Hadry to serve the suspension.
During nearly three hours of testimony, the commission showed that Subtle Step's tongue tie and the urine of his attending groom had tested positive for cocaine.
The inference was that Subtle Step had been treated inadvertently by the employee, Gary Hess, who admitted to the commission yesterday a history of cocaine abuse.
However, the absolute-insurer rule, which was strengthened in a recent ruling by the Court of Special Appeals, essentially says that the trainer of a horse is ultimately responsible for his condition.
Alan Foreman, Hadry's attorney, cited Hadry's clean record and the lofty reputation he has earned in his more than 35 years as a trainer.
Foreman cited testimony that cocaine is not effective as a stimulant or depressant in terms of affecting a racehorse's performance, especially in small dosages. He also cited terminology in the absolute-insurer rule which would allow for exceptions, such as in a December 1989 case in which trainers were not suspended after a Lasix barn mix-up resulted in the wrong medications being administered to horses.
After convening for a brief period, the commission sustained the stewards' ruling, 6-0.
On hearing the decision, Hadry quickly left the room, declining to discuss the decision with reporters.