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Board fines, suspends two trainers at Assiniboia Downs

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The checks and balances within the system work, insists Assiniboia Downs CEO and track announcer Darren Dunn.

On Wednesday, Dunn discussed sanctions brought by the Board of Stewards against owner/trainers Lisa Hebdon and Grant Flanders.

The pair have been fined a total of $5,500 and barred from the Downs for the balance of the season, which has nine race dates remaining.

The board ruled that a horse owned and trained by Hebdon and another by Flanders tested positive for illegal drugs. In addition, a search of their vehicles, as well as Flander's house trailer which is located in the trailer court of Assiniboia Downs, allegedly turned up needles and syringes as well as other drug administering items.

Hebdon has appealed her penalties, but not her convictions, and the MHRC will hear her appeal on Saturday. Flanders, who has left the Downs, is appealing everything.

Pari mutuel wagering will not be affected by the rulings.

"It's surprising and it's disappointing, but it does hold to the system in place, that there are checks and balances in there," said Dunn, "and I take comfort in knowing that we're so strong in the discovery and thoroughness in pushing for integrity in the sport. The system is in place to check for shortcuts, and those who are trying to take the edge. At least this proves that it works."

On Aug. 6, Jatoma, a bay filly trained by Flanders tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug Ketoprofen, after winning the 10th race.

In Hebdon's case, a mare named Golden Venture finished third in the first race on Aug. 20 and tested positive for the decongestant Clenbuterol.

"I would say that it certainly doesn't put a pretty face on things," said Dunn. "At the same time we are up front and open. It's a sport that has to be honest. People are wagering their hard-earned dollars.

"I think this element exists in all sports. We've seen it in the Olympics, we've seen it in baseball, and we've seen it in football. We're not on an island by ourselves. People will always take the edge when there's a lot of money involved, and it is incumbent upon us to make sure we have the system in place to check it."

In total, Hebdon was fined $3,000 and banned for 80 calendar days, while Flanders was fined $2,500 and banned for 35 days. With regards to the search of his trailer, Flanders has been referred to the MHRC and is facing further sanctions.

Both horses in question were disqualified. The new order of finish from the Aug. 20 race involving Golden Venture moved Mixed Intent up to first place, Pic It Right second and Miss Twinzak third. In the Aug. 6 race involving Jatoma, Aficionado moved up to first, Ja First N Gol second and Four Copies third. All monies paid to both horses must be paid back to the horsemen's bookkeeper at the Downs.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2011 C6

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