Ron Burke

Burke horse’s high TCO2 may be big test for integrity rule

January 25, 2018

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A judges’ hearing on the high TCO2 result at The Meadows is scheduled for next week. Should a penalty be assessed, the bigger issue is how it would impact Burke’s operation going forward with the WEG/Jeff Gural integrity rule in place.

by Dave Briggs

The Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission has confirmed that TJ Blast — a horse trained and owned, in part, by the sport’s leading money-winning conditioner Ron Burke — had a high blood gas reading (TCO2) prior to the third race on Monday (Jan. 22) at The Meadows and was scratched.

A bigger issue is how that might impact Burke’s large operation going forward due to the new Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) / Jeff Gural rule (full story here).

That rule is currently being revised (full story here).

Judges have yet to hold a hearing on TJ Blast’s high TCO2 reading. That hearing is expected to be held sometime next week, at which time a penalty may be assessed.

At the request of the horse’s connections — and in accordance to an authorized procedure offered to others with horses with high TCO2 readings in the past — TJ Blast has been sequestered for 72 hours, beginning Wednesday at 10 am. The horse will be retested and, it is possible that new reading may be part of the evidence presented in the judges’ hearing.

A high TCO2 reading in Pennsylvania can result in a relatively minor 30-day suspension and $1,000 fine, but the issue has taken on new urgency given the huge number of horses trained by Burke and the new WEG/Gural rule that will have a severe impact on any trainer and his owners connected to a horse with a high TCO2 reading, or a positive for Class I or II drugs or steroids.

TJ Blast, a 5-year-old gelded son of Yankee Cruiser out of She’s A Blast, was purchased by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Lawrence Karr and Donald Emond on Dec. 28. In 2017, TJ Blast raced mostly at Harrah’s Philadelphia for Jim Groff.

The gelding has earned over $50,000 in his career with a record of 3-5-3 in 48 starts and was scheduled to race in an $11,000 conditioned race on Monday.

WEG chairman Clay Horner, the chief architect of the WEG/Gural rule, told HRU via email that he received an email from Mark Weaver of Weaver Bruscemi LLC on Monday afternoon, not long after TJ Blast’s high TCO2 reading.

“He was very helpful and forthright,” Horner said of Weaver. “We spoke on Wednesday. We discussed how the revised rule would apply in the event a resulting positive Commission decision is issued and not subsequently overturned.

“We also discussed our intended Extraordinary Circumstances exemption provision. Under the Initial Rule and the revised proposals, the Burke barn horses (other than the subject horse) would remain eligible to the stakes of the subject tracks with a trainer independent of the Burke operation and under the revised proposal and in the event Ron Burke and his related trainer group did not have another subject positive, would not be subject to a purse share reduction. Once again, Mark was very helpful and forthright and updated me on expected developments in seeking to understand the situation in the near term. We also received separate advice on the Pennsylvania process. We will monitor the situation as it develops.”

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