Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Mullins debate: Peering through the smoke

The Jeff Mullins incident has spawned a good deal of debate during the last week and two distinctly different schools of thought.

The first: Since the substance that Mullins was observed administering with an oral syringe to Gato Go Win, who was to have run in the Bay Shore Stakes, was a perfectly legal product, a mixture of natural ingredients (and a small amount of alcohol) called Air Power, the matter is overblown and amounts to no more than a detention barn infraction. “It’s like sucking on a cough drop,” Mullins said, claiming ignorance of the New York rules and inferring that detention barn personnel saw him carry both the syringe and the substance into the facility in which horses are sequestered prior to races.

Security personnel at the barn, however, contend that both the substance and syringe were concealed, in fact smuggled into the barn. Mullins has raced in New York before. The rules have not changed. Then again, Mullins said that he routinely gives his horses Air Power on race day in California, but rules in that state prohibit all such substances on race day.

The second school of thought: Where there is smoke, there is fire.

Considering Mullins long and less than illustrious record, built primarily in California and other western states, where he is known as “Milkshake Mullins,” giving him benefit of the doubt out of the question, a possibility only for the na├»ve who would consider the remote possibility the Mullins is telling the truth. If Gato Go Win required a “cough drop” before a race, he should not have been running on Saturday. It would require an unreasonable leap of faith to believe that Mullins was simply giving the horse something totally innocuous that he did not require for an effective run.

Despite the endorsement of Air Power by the respected Michael Matz, it is interesting that the promotional literature assures potential customers that the product: “Will not test.”

Though no veterinarian who practices on racetracks will address this on the record, some claim that the interaction of Air Power and some medications – Lasix, derivatives of procaine and some antiseptics – can meaningfully alter performance in horses.

If this is true, the story – and perhaps many others -- has a new and intriguing element. The interaction of various permitted medications, especially the universally-used Lasix, and other substances, some of which may be natural, is not a subject that has been scrutinized, at least in the public light, by regulatory chemists.

More smoke? -- PM

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