Horse Racing

CHRB Settlement: John Sadler Fined $5,000 Over 2020 Bisphosphonate Positive

Trainer John Sadler.

Trainer John Sadler has been fined $5,000 by the California Horse Racing Board, according to a ruling published on Friday, relating to his trainee Flagstaff testing positive for clodronic acid, a bisphosphonate sold under the brand name Osphos, in a post-race sample after finishing second in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes on Sept. 27, 2020, at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.

Bisphosphonates are a class of drug approved by the FDA in 2014 and prescribed to prevent bone loss in people and to treat navicular syndrome in horses, a common cause of forelimb lameness. The drug is not approved for horses less than four years old.

Equine surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage of Rood & Riddle warned about the use of bisphosphonates Osphos and Tildren in young horses during a client education seminar in 2018, saying the drug can have unintended, detrimental side effects. Many racing states moved to ban the drugs.

The CHRB banned bisphosphonates effective July 1, 2020, saying that any horse administered the drug in the previous six months – effectively a cutoff date of Jan. 1, 2020 – was prohibited from stabling on CHRB regulated grounds.

When the positive test was first made public in May, Sadler’s attorney Darrell Vienna said Flagstaff was legally treated with Osphos on an unspecified date “late in 2019,” when Flagstaff was 5 years old. Vienna cited the extended half life of Osphos as an explanation for the positive test, saying it can linger in a horse’s system for many months or even longer than a year.

Flagstaff was ordered unplaced in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship by a ruling released on June 19, 2021.

Friday’s ruling specifies that Sadler entered into a settlement agreement with the CHRB, and that the fine is for violation of rule #1867.1(b), which states: “No licensee shall bring into a CHRB enclosure a horse known to have been administered a bisphosphonate within the previous six months.”

At the time the positive was announced, clodronic acid was not included on the CHRB’s current list of prohibited substances, so under the regulatory body’s rules it automatically falls under the most severe drug category, Class 1. Today, current CHRB regulations list bisphosphonates as Drug Class C, Penalty Category A.

Penalty Category A requires a one-year suspension, absent mitigating circumstances, along with a minimum fine of $10,000, again absent mitigating circumstances. Owners face loss of purse and potential placement of a horse on the vet’s list for up to 90 days.


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