CYPRESS, Calif. (Dec. 17, 2017) — Trainer Ron Ellis has been fined $10,000 and suspended 60 days after California-bred Masochistic tested positive for the steroid stanozolol following a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November 2016.
Ellis said Sunday afternoon that he is considering an appeal, pending a conversation with his attorney, Steve Schwartz. He described the penalty as “egregious.”
“I’ll meet with my lawyer and explore an appeal,” he said. “I want to explore my options.”
The decision was announced in a one-page ruling released by Los Alamitos stewards Luis Jauregui, Kim Sawyer, and Tom Ward on Sunday. The decision, recently adopted by the California Horse Racing Board, was proposed earlier this fall by stewards Grant Baker, Scott Chaney, and Sawyer, who heard hearings in the case in the last year.
Ellis’s suspension runs from Jan. 1 through March 1.
The penalty would essentially shut down Ellis’s stable for the first two months of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting that begins on Dec. 26. While suspended, Ellis cannot attend races or be in the stables.
The ruling stated that Ellis must forfeit his stalls at Santa Anita and remove from the stables all “signage, colors, advertisements, training-related equipment tack, office equipment and any other property.”
Ellis will not be able to transfer the horses in his care to a family member, or any licensee who has been an employee of his stable in the last year, the ruling stated.
Masochistic was disqualified from the purse of the $1,365,000 BC Sprint late last December. Owners Will Shamlian and Samantha Siegel forfeited a $255,000 share of the purse.
Before the BC Sprint, Masochistic underwent three pre-race medication tests that are part of the Breeders’ Cup’s protocol. The tests revealed the presence of stanozolol.
Ellis said in late 2016 that Masochistic was administered stanolozol in an effort to add weight and with the expectations that the medication would not be in the horse’s system on Nov. 5, 2016, the date of the BC Sprint.
“We reported it as required and we gave it in the time frame that was suggested,” he reiterated Sunday.
Ellis said Sunday he thought he was dealt with harshly considering his stable has not had a significant medication violation in 37 years.
Steroids are not allowed at any level in post-race tests. Pre-race tests showed the presence of the steroid at trace level. The medication was still present in a post-race test, resulting in a violation.
Because of the positive, Ellis was banned from running horses in the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar last month, while Masochistic was barred from running in the Breeders’ Cup. The suspensions are not in effect for 2018.
Last spring, Masochistic finished 13th in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard in what was his final start for Ellis. Masochistic was taken out of training after the loss and rested at a Kentucky farm.
Masochistic was sent to trainer Bob Baffert when he returned to training this fall. Baffert said last week that Masochistic is a candidate for the Grade 3 Midnight Lute Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 30.
A 7-year-old gelding, Masochistic has won three stakes, most notably the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita in 2015. Masochistic has won 8 of 16 starts and earned $857,550.
Ellis has been a prominent trainer in California in recent decades, stressing quality over quantity.
Ellis, 57, has won 1,123 races in his career, which began in 1980 at the age of 20. Ellis won his first Grade 1 with Key Phrase in the 1995 Santa Monica Handicap at the time he was closely allied with prominent owner-breeders Marty and Pam Wygod.
For the Wygods, Ellis trained the multiple stakes winners Benchmark and Exotic Wood in 1990. More recently, Ellis trained Declan’s Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, and Rail Trip, the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in 2009, for Siegel.
In this decade, Ellis has won Grade 1 races with Include Me Out and Teddy’s Promise, in addition to Masochistic.