Trainer Suspended In Sponging Case

The New Mexico Racing Commission has suspended trainer Joe Meyers for five years after he was accused of stuffing a sponge into a horse's nostrils. In action that effectively extends the penalty to a lifetime ban, the commission also recommended to future racing commissions that Meyers never be allowed to hold a license in the state.

The suspension levied against Meyers was the maximum allowed by law and stemmed from an incident uncovered last Aug. 22. According to testimony presented in the case, the pieces of sponge were found in the nostrils of Absolutely Nothing on the morning before the 3-year-old gelding was to compete in the first of two races that were combined for a twin trifecta wager, worth $322,000, at The Downs at Santa Fe on Aug. 22. Absolutely Nothing was one of the favorites for the first leg of the twin trifecta, in which the bettor attempts to select the first three finishers in both races.

A security guard testified he saw Meyers approach the barn where Absolutely Nothing was stabled at about 12:20 a.m. on the day of the race. The guard said she saw Meyers remove a halter from his jacket and wrap it around the horse's nose. He then gripped the horse's upper lip with his left hand before releasing the halter. The guard said she could not see what Meyers did with his right hand.

Upon being questioned, Meyers said he had trainer Nicole Rollins' permission to be at the barn. When she was notified after her arrival at the barn at about 5:15 a.m., Rollins said she never gave Meyers permission to be at the stall and asked a veterinarian to check her horse. The veterinarian then discovered the sponge.

About the Author

Ron Mitchell/The Horse

Ron Mitchell is Online Managing Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine. A Lexington native, Mitchell joined The Blood-Horse after serving in editorial capacities with The Thoroughbred Record and Thoroughbred Times, specializing in business and auction aspects of the industry, and was editor-in-chief of the award-winning Horsemen’s Journal. As online managing editor, Mitchell works closely with The Blood-Horse news editor and other departments to make sure the website content is the most thorough and accurate source for all Thoroughbred news, results, videos, and data.

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