The fallout from Todd Pletcher scratching Emmanuel from Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Derby went beyond taking front-end speed out of the race.

Emmanuel-medication violation
Emmanuel, seen here after winning the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge last month, was scratched from Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Derby over a medication procedure infraction. Trainer Todd Pletcher was fined $1,000 for the procedural violation. (Image: Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher)

The Daily Racing Form reported Pletcher scratched Emmanuel for receiving three doses of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory within seven days of a race. Dr. Scott Palmer, the equine medical director for the New York State Gaming Commission, told the DRF that’s a violation of commission rules.

As a result, the NYSGC fined Pletcher $1,000 for “failing to follow procedures listed in the horsemen’s conditions.” All horsemen must sign a document indicating they read the information sheet.

According to the NYSGC, there are three NSAIDs that can be administered up until 48 hours before a race. Those are flunixin, ketoprofen, or phenylbutazone. Palmer told the DRF that Pletcher supplied medical records indicating that Emmanuel received shots of Butazoldin on July 3, 4, and 7. That’s the trade name of phenylbutazone.

Pletcher accepted the blame unquestionably

The state requested those records after a July 4 out-of-competition test revealed dexamethasone in Emmanuel’s system. That corticosteroid is used to treat inflammation. Palmer told the DRF that Emmanuel received Naquasone, which contains dexamethasone. That is allowed under NYSGC regulations five days out from a race. Palmer said it was given to Emmanuel six days out.

Pletcher was contrite. He also said the December 2020 rule change restricting NSAIDs to one dose during the week before a race was unclear.

“I didn’t think the rule was written clearly and I don’t think people on our team had a clear understanding of the intention of the rule, and that includes our veterinary team,” Pletcher told the DRF. “I take full responsibility, it’s my job to know the rules.”

Adding insult to non-injury

Pletcher told the DRF he shouldn’t have scratched Emmanuel. This, after Palmer told him Emmanuel wouldn’t have tested positive for anything after the Belmont Derby.

Emmanuel’s scratching changed the Belmont Derby’s race dynamic. The winner of the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge last month, Emmanuel was expected to keep Classic Causeway honest with his front-end speed. Instead, Classic Causeway felt little pressure outside of European challenger Royal Privilege. He won the race gate-to-wire at 26/1 in his turf debut.

“I’m disappointed that the horse was scratched because the horse did not have anything in his system that would have tested positive,” Pletcher told the DRF. “I should have been fined and he should have been allowed to run. I’m disappointed in that for the owners and for the horse.”