New Jersey Officials Hit Trainer Cobb With Seven-Year Suspension For Treatment Of Horse, Possession Of Injectables - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

New Jersey Officials Hit Trainer Cobb With Seven-Year Suspension For Treatment Of Horse, Possession Of Injectables

A still from the video evidence presented to the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission shows Cobb striking the filly with a plastic rake while she is tied to the back of the stall

More than two years after an incident at a New Jersey training center that prompted outrage among racing fans and horse people, trainer Amber Cobb was issued a seven-year suspension and $11,000 fine for that and other rule violations by the New Jersey Racing Commission.

Cobb maintained a string of horses at Westampton Farms in Westampton, N.J.,  in winter 2021, in between racing seasons at her usual bases of Delaware Park and Finger Lakes. In February 2021, an employee filmed an incident that took place between Cobb and a 2-year-old chestnut filly in her care that showed Cobb shouting at the filly and striking the horse with a plastic pitchfork as the horse was tied to a metal grating over a window. The horse scrambled to get away from the trainer and eventually fell.

That video became the basis for a stewards' ruling in Delaware against Cobb for “improper or inhumane treatment” and resulted in a two-year suspension from the stewards. On appeal before the full racing commission, that suspension was reduced to 60 days.

Later in 2021, stewards in Delaware revoked Cobb's owner and trainer licenses altogether, citing new evidence related to possession of hypodermic needles and cruelty to horses. They also indicated that Cobb did not attend the anger management program she had been ordered to complete after the incident with the filly and the pitchfork.

This week, the New Jersey Racing Commission issued its own ruling related to the February 2021 interaction between Cobb and the tied filly, as well as other charges. After an administrative hearing on March 20, 2023, stewards found Cobb acted “in a manner detrimental to the sport of horse racing and adverse to the health, safety and well-being of a Thoroughbred racehorse under her care” with regards to the filly.  The stewards noted that she had not sought appropriate licensure in New Jersey despite training at an “off-track training facility that was licensed by and under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Racing Commission from January 2021 through March 2021.

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They also found she violated state regulations by possessing hypodermic needles and syringes, as well as bottles of injectable substances. These included phenylbutazone, betamethasone, flumethasone, dexamethasone, and flunixin, which are all common therapeutics administered by veterinarians.

According to laboratory analysis, one bottle contained nikethamide, which the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has termed a “very dangerous drug” due to its high risk of dangerous or fatal side effects. Experts believe nikethamide was more commonly used as a performance-enhancing compound in the 1960s and 1970s for its stimulant impacts. It is considered a Class 1, penalty A substance by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and is not produced legally in the United States. It's listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency as a banned substance but is difficult to test for since it is rapidly metabolized into nicotinamide, a compound found normally in a horse's body.

The ruling also noted the presence of a bottle labeled MV Chinfield. According to its producer's website, the injectable substance is sold as a “respiratory stimulant” that impacts “the saturation degree of the hemoglobin, which derives into a defatigant” and “increases the volume of air inspired progressively” for several hours. It also notes it can be used in cases of allergic respiratory reactions and may reduce the chance of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. It is not an FDA-approved substance and was one of several substances at the heart of a 2017 federal case against a Puerto Rican horse trainer found to be smuggling illegal drugs into the U.S.

Cobb did not appear at the March hearing, despite having had notice of the ruling sent to her in February. In her appeal before the Delaware commission two years ago, she characterized her actions in the controversial video as an attempt to protect herself from a horse who had previously tried to kick her while tied to the window.

She has not saddled a runner since July 21, 2021.

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