Quarter Horse trainer Martin Orona, Jr. has been summarily suspended by the New Mexico Racing Commission after one of his trainees tested positive for Nikethamide, according to a ruling posting on the Association of Racing Commissioners International website. The stimulant, classified by the ARCI as the highest-level Class 1, penalty A drug, was originally intended for use to treat overdoses of sedatives, especially barbiturates, but it has since been replaced with safer treatments.
There is no permissible concentration of Nikethamide allowed to appear in any official sample in New Mexico.
Nikethamide is listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency as a banned substance. Use of Nikethamide, or nicotinic acid diethylamide, was more prevalent in the 1980s. According to the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, it is considered “very dangerous” in horses since there is a possibility of complications that could result in death, but it is believed to have been a widely abused drug in horse racing in the 1960s and ’70s because it quickly metabolized and was difficult to detect in post-race testing.
In South America and Europe, Nikethamide is commonly available in lozenge form as a respiratory stimulant. but the RMTC told bloodhorse.com it is not aware of any U.S. company that manufactures or distributes it for human or veterinary use.
Orona’s trainee Mi Gentee, a 3-year-old gelding by Jesse James Jr, won the sixth race at Ruidoso Downs on July 16, 2022, prior to testing positive for the drug. The race was one of five trials for the Zia Derby, a $175,000 stakes scheduled to be run on Saturday, Aug. 6; Mi Gentee was not entered in the race.
Orona is a multiple graded stakes-winning Quarter Horse trainer with 119 lifetime wins and over $2.2 million in earnings, according to equibase.com.
A hearing before the board of stewards has been scheduled for Aug. 6 at 9:00 a.m. at Ruidoso.
In 2017, the NMRC issued a $75,000 fine and four-year suspension to trainer Jose Alfredo Gonzalez, who had had two Thoroughbred trainees test positive for Nikethamide.
NMRC executive director Ismael “Izzy” Trejo told the Thoroughbred Daily News in 2017: “It’s a very unusual drug that has no place to be in a horse, ever. The most infamous approach to describing what this drug is [is that] it was a drug they once used on Adolf Hitler to revive him after a drug-induced overdose.”
In 2013, leading mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred trainer Chris Grove was handed a $5,000 fine and six-month suspension by the West Virginia Racing Commission after one of his trainees tested positive for Nikethamide.