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A state court is giving a reprieve to three Maine harness racing horsemen who had been suspended and fined by state regulators over horse doping allegations. In all, the Harness Racing Commission suspended the licenses of seven trainers in Maine for as long as 15 months for administering a substance called cobalt to horses. Their blood was tested after they won races last year. Cobalt is a trace element that can stimulate production of red blood cells and blood-oxygen levels in some animals, but whose role in horse racing is in dispute. Three of the trainers appealed to Superior Court, and late last week Cumberland County Judge Lance Walker stayed the suspensions pending a full trial. Walker cited a lack of scientific evidence or consensus about cobalt’s effects on horse performance. And Bill Childs, a lawyer for two of the trainers, says the judge also cited potential problems with the commission’s rules and notice procedures. “When these cases were prosecuted, there was no rule in effect,” he says. “They took the later adopted rule and tried to retroactively apply it.” Childs says that when trainers Randy Bickmore and Drew Campbell administered cobalt to their horses, they did not actually know whether the substance could enhance a horse’s chance to get to the finish line first. They only knew that it’s a component of vitamin B and might work like some similar human performance enhancers. “They were unsure. We think it benefits the horse. It makes for a better coat on the horse. Vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, both those vitamins have been known to enrich the blood or make a person feel better or make an animal feel better,” Childs says. He says that once the trainers were notified that state regulators considered cobalt to be banned above certain levels, they stopped administering it, and there have been no positive cobalt tests in Maine horses since then. Information collected by a national track veterinarian group called the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium does indicate that in large doses, cobalt can harm equine health, causing profuse sweating and gastrointestinal spasms. And trainers have been penalized in other racing jurisdictions for using cobalt. The chairman of Maine’s Harness Racing Commission, William Varney, says there’s a lot at stake in horse doping cases. “The integrity of racing, the fairness to the other people racing in those areas. And it’s also for the health of the horse,” he says. Varney says the commission is trying to sharpen its oversight of potential horse doping. At its meeting last week the commission authorized staff to begin the process of revising its rules with an eye to making them more transparent, and more effective. The three trainers who challenged their suspensions could be back at the track by Thursday. By Fred Bever Reprinted with permission of Maine Public Broadcasting site.

The Maine State Harness Racing Commission plans on Friday afternoon to release more details about the cases of seven people who have been suspended or fined by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for supplying cobalt to their horses, according to a report by Portland TV station WCSH. The seven are drivers, trainers or owners of horses and some are appealing the rulings, according to the report. The use of cobalt is banned, as it improves endurance, according to a report on racing.com, and can cause severe side effects in horses. Steven Vafiades of Corinth was hit the hardest for penalties, as he has been suspended 450 days and must repay $23,000 in purse money. He also has been fined $2,250. Others who received suspensions of 450 days were Randy Bickmore, Patricia Switzer and Stephen Murchison. Longtime driver Drew Campbell of Scarborough, who has more 3,500 career victories, was suspended for 270 days. He also was fined $1,250 and must repay $2,150 in purse money. Bickmore, Switzer and Murchison were each fined $2,250, and each must repay purse money ranging from $4,000 to almost $11,000. Allison McDonald was ordered to repay $1,250 in purse money, and Frank Hiscock must repay $1,200. The penalties for Bickmore, Campbell, Vafiades and Switzer were apparently handed down by the Maine Harness Racing Commission in February. The commission is part of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. A report by harnessracingupdate.com on March 6 said it received a penalty summary for those four people from Henry Jennings, the commission’s acting executive director. Although issues with the use of cobalt in horse racing reportedly surfaced as early as 2013, the misuse of the chemical appears to have increased dramatically during 2015. That is the time frame in which the seven Maine harness racing trainers/drivers were found to have abused the substance in their horses. In April, the New York State Gaming Commission levied what were termed unprecedented penalties against six Standardbred horse trainers who had administered doses of cobalt that were deemed potentially dangerous and performance-enhancing in nature. Those trainers are to be suspended or have their licenses revoked entirely and each has been fined at least $25,000, according to a report in the Daily Racing Forum. The cobalt levels in horses trained by three of the individuals were deemed to be so serious that those individuals will be banned from harness racing for 10 years. The violations involving the six New York trainers occurred at Monticello Casino and Raceway, Saratoga Casino and Raceway and Yonkers Raceway during March 2016. The New York State Gaming Commission also has referred the violations to law enforcement, opening the door for possible animal cruelty charges. According to thoroughbredracing.com, cobalt is a substance that occurs as part of the vitamin B12 complex and is present naturally in horses at low levels. However, it gained attention as a performance enhancer in horses because it stimulates the production of the hormone erythropoietin, which promotes the formation of red blood cells. The result is better endurance and decreased muscle fatigue. However, high doses of cobalt can have major health ramifications for horses. It can produce abnormal sweating, anxiety and trembling. A study by Dr. Mary Scollay, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission equine medical director, found that high doses of cobalt also interfere with the clotting of blood. Reprinted with permission of The Bangor Daily News

Seven people working in Maine harness racing have been suspended or fined by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for supplying cobalt to their horses, according to a report by Portland TV station WCSH. The seven are drivers, trainers or owners of horses and some are appealing the rulings, according to the report. The use of cobalt is banned as it improves endurance, according to a report on racing.com, and can cause severe side effects in horses. Steven Vafiades of Corinth was hit the hardest for penalties as he has been suspended 450 days and must repay $23,000 in purse money. He also has been fined $2,250. Others who received suspensions of 450 days were Randy Bickmore, Patricia Switzer and Stephen Murchison. Longtime driver Drew Campbell of Scarborough, who has more 3,500 career victories, was suspended for 270 days. He also was fined $1,250 and must repay $2,150 in purse money. Bickmore, Switzer and Murchison were each fined $2,250, and each must repay purse money ranging from $4,000 to almost $11,000. Allison McDonald was ordered to repay $1,250 in purse money, and Frank Hiscock must repay $1,200. The penalties for Bickmore, Campbell, Vafiades and Switzer were apparently handed down by the Maine Harness Racing Commission in February. The commission is part of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. A report by harnessracingupdate.com on March 6 said it received a penalty summary for those four people from Henry Jennings, the commission’s acting executive director. Reprinted with permission of The Bangor Daily News 

Harnesslink has verified through the Maine State Harness Racing Commission that a large number of Cobalt positives have been found in race horses, with 12 positives being detected among five different trainers. Maine’s top driver, Drew Campbell and leading trainer, Randy Bickford, are among the leading offenders. “There have been tests that have come back with what would be considered excess levels of Cobalt,” said Henry Jackson, the executive director of the Maine State Harness Racing Commission. “And there was one test that had high levels of EPO. “Only one of the Cobalt cases has been heard by the Commission with a finding,” Jackson said. “That first case involving Stephen Murchison is waiting final review by the Commission. The penalty being imposed by the Commission in that case is for a one year suspension, a $1,000 fine, the return of the purse from the race and the horse has been suspended from racing for 45 days.” Drew Campbell has been notified by the Commission on two excessive levels of Cobalt in horses he trains. Randy Bickford has five Cobalt positives pending, Patricia Switzer had two Cobalt and one EPO positive and Steven Vafiades also had positives. “We are not sure when the hearings will take place on these positives,” Jackson explained, “Three of the trainers have already “lawyered up” so it may take a little time before the Commission hears those cases, maybe by September. “The Maine Harness Racing Commission will continue to test for high levels of Cobalt and EPO,” Jackson said. “This is a dangerous situation for our equine athletes.” By Steven Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

Pompano Beach, FL...February 4, 2015... Nothinbutanallstar, driven by Mark O'Mara, eked out a narrow victory in Pompano Park's harness racing featured $13,000 Open Handicap Trot on Wednesday night.   The four year-old altered son of Allstar Hall completed his task in 1:54.3, a new lifetime mark considering his other similar mark came over Hoosier Park's seven-eighths mile oval.   The gallant mare Pure Barre, with Mickey McNichol in the bike, was just a neck back in second with Dukester, driven by Rick Plano, third, three lengths away. Saint Patty's Doll finished fourth while M C Felix picked up the minor award in the sextet.   As the race unfolded, Pure Barre was sent directly to the fore with Saint Patty's Doll protecting her inside post to get away in the garden spot. The versatile Nothinbutanallstar, starting from the outside post, also showed some early foot and nestled into third around the opening turn.   Positions remained stagnant through the :28 opener and :57.2 half but O'Mara sent Nothinbutanallstar just a stride prior to the second station and began grinding away at the leader, reaching second around the final turn through three quarters in 1:26.3.   From there, it was classic duel all the way to the wire with Pure Barre and Nothinbutanallstar matching strides through an official :28 finale--the latter just edging by in the final few strides.   After the race, driver Mark O'Mara said, "He (Nothinbutanallstar) isn't use to an 'easy' trip like this. There are times when he has had to come from way, way off the pace and there have been other times when he's either been used hard early on or been hung out there. Tonight, he was able to find a nice spot early without any hassle and then he just does what he does best--grind along. He's very solid and can go on forever...very consistent."   Indeed.   Nothinbutanallstar, also trained by O'Mara for owner Lester Raber, now sports a lifetime scorecard of 12-11-7 in 34 starts, good for $191,464.   He has missed but two checks in his 34 lifetime starts.   As the second choice in the betting at 7 to 5 (Purse Barre was 6 to 5), Nothinbutanallstar paid $4.80 to win.   Pompano Park also had a supporting cast of trotting events--three to be exact--with Winemaster Hanover and Increditable staking claim to their respective $10,000 events and Gold Savage lighting up the tote-board in a companion event worth $9,200.   First, Winemaster Hanover, driven by Dave Ingraham, led at every pole in scoring a victory measuring 1 1/2 lengths over Mc Tiny's Hope (Ben McNeil) with Thekeptman (Rick Plano) third.   After clocking panels of :27.2, :55.4 and 1:24.4, Winemaster Hanover, stopped the clock in 1:54.4, a new lifetime mark.   This five year-old son of Donato Hanover, trained by Randy Bickmore for owner Kevin Gee, earned his second triumph of the young season and 14th lifetime, sending his career bankroll to $80,256--$10,000 of that in the infancy of this year.   Third choice in the betting, Winemaster Hanover paid $10.60 to win.   Next, Increditable, a six year-old son of Credit Winner, trained by Norm Dessureault for owner Denis Goyette, was given a sterling drive by Kevin Wallis to score in a lifetime best 1:54.1.   Using "patience and prudence," Increditable was away alertly before yielding short of the :27.1 opener to Highland Yankee (Wally Hennessey). Then it was R G Rocket (Dave Ingraham) who took control and rambled to the half in a sharp :55.3.   As Majestic Won and Aaron Byron began their bid, Wallis had Increditable following that live cover--a move that ultimately sent him to the winner's circle.   Majestic Won did finish second while R G Rocket was comfortably third. Highland Yankee and C J's Rascal picked up the minors.   As fifth choice on the board, Increditable paid $13.40 to win.   Finally, Gold Savage, a new arrival by claim for the Polo Stables, used an aggressive--but patient--drive by Dunc Clements to light up the tote-board with a $103.00 win mutuel.   Trained by Mark Friedman, the five year-old son of Keystone Savage, was aggressive early in taking an early lead before patiently letting, first, Speed Hanover take command at the :27.1 opening panel and, then, allowing a quarter move by the favorite, Keystone Wyatt, that latter taking the field through an opening half in :55.4.   On the backside, the still patient Gold Savage allowed Sweetasmusic to make a first up bid before following that one's cover and, ultimately, edging by late for the upset victory measuring three parts of a length over the late charging Echos Funky Claude (Ed Hensley). Rush N Supreme, driven by "Sky" Walker, charged from eighth turning for home to finish third as Keystone Wyatt and Sweetasmusic finished fourth and fifth, respectively.   Finally, with multiple Wednesday night winners in the Super Hi-5, the unique ticket jackpot going into Saturday night's program is over $105,000.   Post time is 7:30 p.m.   John Berry

Scarborough, Maine (Saturday, October 25, 2014) - Driver Drew Campbell refused to play second fiddle to anyone on Saturday as he added to his meet's leading tally with four trips down victory lane on a beautiful sunny day at Scarborough Downs. Here he wears down the front running Manchine with the Randy Bickmore trained Ringo to grab his first win of the afternoon. Just another day at the office for Mr Grand Slam!  For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine (Friday, July 26, 2014) - Scarborough Downs was privileged to play host to the 4th annual Maine Harness Racing Gives Back charity drive on Saturday (7-26) as members of the racing community combined forces to assist the folks who do the good deeds out in the local community. Spearheaded by the Maine Harness Horseman's Association (MHHA) and championed by the Maine Amateur Drivers Club, a total of $2067 was raised through raffles and donations. That total will be shared equally by this year's three charities; The Scarborough Food Pantry, the Arthur B Huot House and the Maine Standardbred Welfare Fund. "The harness racing industry worked hard and dug deep today but it all paid off as we were able to raise good money to benefit these outstanding organizations" said MHHA board member David Crochere, "We recognize the importance of community and stand ready to do whatever it takes to help out people in need." In other track news, Kevin Switzer, Jr. came to the forefront on Saturday, steering four winners down victory lane, including back-to-back wins behind horses sent out by his mother from the Patty Switzer stable. Live racing resumes on Sunday afternoon with a 1:05 PM (EDT) post time. The matinee performance will feature the return of Maine Sires action as the two-year-old colt pacing division will take center stage in twin nine-horse fields contested for purses in excess of $10,000 per division. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page. By Mike Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine (Friday, December 20, 2013) - With old man winter breathing down our necks, plans in are in full force to cap off the successful 2013 meeting at Scarborough Downs this weekend (December 21 & 22) Full cards are planned for both Saturday and Sunday with a post time of 12:05 pm. Saturday's program will feature the presentation of Year-End Awards. Claimer of the Year honors, at various levels, will go to: Sassy Sarah Personnel Space Bonus Miles Kit Kat Du Ruisseau In Tony's Honor Rodeo Du Ruisseau Bold Fresh Fox Valley Spencer Suzanne Christensen's Grandma Finn will receive the coveted Distaff Pacer of the Year award; owner Paul Cloney will be accepting Trotter of the Year Award for his Waterloo Willie, and Paul Richardson's Haverford Hanover will be presented with the top honors of Pacer of the Year. On the human side of the equation, it has long been a foregone conclusion that Drew Campbell would reclaim Leading Driver status this season with 153 wins heading into the weekend, 47 more than his closest competitor, while trainer Randy Bickmore will garner his umpteenth consecutive Trainer of the Year award based upon his 84 top tallies. The up-and-coming awards will go to a couple of popular selections, with Adam Gray receiving the Freeman Parker Award for up-and-coming driver, and David McClellan being presented with the Loring Norton Award for up-and-coming trainer. Sunday's closing day festivities will feature the 7th Annual Standardbred Retirement Ceremony, co-sponsored by the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of Maine, where ten fourteen year olds will parade triumphantly one final time before hanging up their racing bridles and transitioning to new careers. This year's honorees include: Art By Keene BigBadVooDooDaddy Gold Ball Lazer Zone Rare Glory Simply Made The Power ofWealth Urbane VW Bug Woodmere Fulatrix "These noble animals have delighted us at the races year after year and now that their athletic careers have come to conclusion, it's only fitting that they be sent off to retirement in the grandest manner," said Publicity Director, Mike Sweeney. "Standardbred race horses are a versatile and sturdy stock and these ten have bright futures and many years left ahead of them. We send them off to their new careers with appreciation for past accomplishments and anticipation of great things to come." A commemorative program will be available for patrons that includes pictures and write-ups of each horse with their retirement plans. The ceremony is slated to take place after Race 6. By Susan Higgins and Mike Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

The gates swung open for the 63rd consecutive season at Scarborough Downs as Maine harness racing sprung to life on Saturday in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd.

The Scarborough Downs staff is busy gearing up for Opening Weekend as the 108-day, 2013 live harness racing meet gets underway on Saturday, March 30th at 4 pm and Sunday, March 31st at 1:05 pm.

It was a huge day for State of Maine harness racing connections on Saturday as Mrs. Wyeth's Union Rags won the Belmont Stakes and Kevin Gee's IPO Blue Chip obliterated one of the oldest track records on the books at Scarborough Downs.

In classic battle of the sexes fashion, IPO Blue Chip, the lone mare in Sunday's (5/20) $6,000 Free for All Trot, bested an accomplished harness racing field of boys en route to inscribing her name on the track record ledger by equaling one of the longest-standing benchmarks held at Scarborough Downs for aged mares.

With the New England harness racing season heading down the homestretch,several Maine drivers and trainers are putting up some high percentage stats at Scarborough Downs.

Harness racing driver Drew Campbell cemented his lead atop the Scarborough Downs' Leader's Board on Sunday (April 17) - steering four horses down victory lane, including three consecutive winning drives behind Elegant Eve, Shagon Again, and Lucky Strike.

On an afternoon whose temperature made it feel more like the end of the harness racing meet rather than the beginning, five Free-for-All fillies and mares took to the raceway with one goal in mind: to finish on top.

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