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Trainer banned from 2017 Breeders’ Cup after positive test

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Trainer Ron Ellis has been banned from entering any horses in the Breeders’ Cup world championships this fall after being sanctioned by the event for a positive drug test involving his horse that finished second in last year’s BC Sprint.

Breeders’ Cup officials said Tuesday that the ban also applies to the horse Masochistic, who tested positive for a trace amount of an anabolic steroid after last year’s event at Santa Anita. The horse was disqualified from the Sprint and his purse earnings were redistributed.

This year’s two-day world championships will be Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar north of San Diego.

Several years ago the Breeders’ Cup adopted tougher rules on the use of medications that state no trainer may enter horses in the event if the person is found in violation of a jurisdiction’s rules regarding steroids within the past 12 months. California rules prohibit horses from testing positive for any amount of anabolic steroid.

The ban also doesn’t allow any of Ellis’ trainees to compete in this year’s Breeders’ Cup under another trainer’s name.

“Today’s actions affirm our determination to conduct the Breeders’ Cup under the highest standards of integrity in a fair competitive environment for all participants,” Breeders’ Cup President Craig Fravel said in a statement.

Ellis has admitted to giving Masochistic the anabolic steroid stanozolol during breaks for the horse between races last year. The drug can help a horse recover from exercise, improve appetite and build muscle mass.

California rules allow the administration of the drug, but a horse can’t race within 60 days of receiving it.

Ellis was notified three days prior to the BC Sprint that out-of-competition tests were still showing trace amounts of stanozolol in the horse’s blood. He chose to run in the race despite the warning, which was not shared with Breeders’ Cup officials or the wagering public. Masochistic is owned by Jay Em Ess Stable and Los Pollos Hermanos Racing.

Fravel said the event will look into new regulations “to ensure that no horse testing positive for any anabolic steroid while in training or competition will be permitted to race in the Breeders’ Cup.”

Ellis declined to comment in a text message Tuesday to The Associated Press, but has said he won’t contest the findings in the case. The 56-year-old Southern California-based trainer failed to top $1 million or more in earnings last year for the first time since 2003, according to Equibase. His other highest finishes in the Breeders’ Cup were second- and third-place finishes in 2012. His biggest career victory came in the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup.

James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, congratulated the Breeders’ Cup for its stance against anabolic steroids and urged regulators in the 38 U.S. racing jurisdictions to adopt the model rule for out-of-competition testing that mandates horses treated with any steroid spend at least six months on a veterinarian’s list, which would make them ineligible to race.

2017 Kentucky Derby: Mike Tirico succeeds Tom Hammond

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STAMFORD, Conn. – Mike Tirico, who was recently named NBC’s primetime Olympics host, will be taking the Triple Crown hosting reins from Tom Hammond, an award-winning member of NBC Sports’ horse racing team for more than three decades.

Tune in to watch live coverage of the 2017 Kentucky Derby at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 6, on NBC.

“NBC Sports is the home to the world’s premier horse racing, due in no small part to Tom’s passion, knowledge and relationships in the sport,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman NBC Broadcasting and Sports. “We are pleased that Tom is going to remain part of the NBC family and that we have someone of Mike’s caliber to succeed him on horse racing.”

Next week on NBCSN, Hammond will host the special 30-minute My Kentucky Home, in which he takes a look at how Kentucky came to be the home of thoroughbred racing. Hammond, who has covered a dozen Olympics, will return to NBC Olympics’ coverage at the 2018 PyeongChang Games next February.

Tirico, making his first-ever trip to a Triple Crown event, joins NBC Sports Group’s Triple Crown coverage beginning with the 2017 Kentucky Derby on May 6 on NBC, and will work the Preakness Stakes on May 20, and the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

“Tom’s professionalism, presence and passion for the sport enhanced Triple Crown viewing for so many of us over the years,” said Tirico, who made his TV horse racing debut alongside Hammond last fall on NBC’s coverage of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. “He perfectly set the tone and in the process set the standard for this role.  I’m honored to follow a legend and cherish the chance to work with our great team.”

Hammond’s TV horse racing debut came in 1984, when he was hired on what was intended to be a one-time-only basis as a reporter for NBC’s telecast of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Ever since that Eclipse Award-winning telecast, Hammond has been integral on a wide-range of NBC Sports events, highlighted by horse racing – covering his home-state Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes 16 times apiece, and 11 Belmont Stakes, including American Pharoah’s historic Triple Crown victory in 2015. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and honored as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Kentucky, where he earned bachelor’s degree in animal science and studied equine genetics as a graduate student, Hammond has also anchored NBC’s Breeders’ Cup coverage over the past 30+ years.

“I had a great time putting together My Kentucky Home, and I hope viewers will understand why I think this is a special place,” Hammond said. “As I embark on a less demanding schedule at NBC, I can rest assured that the coverage of Thoroughbred racing is in good hands. That sport is very close to my heart, so I am pleased that Mike, a highly accomplished professional, will assume the role as leader of the superb NBC horse racing team. I wish them all the best going forward.”

Hammond’s 30-minute My Kentucky Home special will debut on NBCSN next Wednesday, May 3 at 12:30 a.m. ET following Tuesday night’s St. Louis-Nashville Stanley Cup Playoff game. The special will encore on NBCSN on Wednesday, May 3 at 5 p.m. ET, Thursday, May 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET and on Friday May 5 within NBCSN’s live Kentucky Oaks coverage and following that evening’s Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Jockeys Castellano, Espinoza, Gomez, throughbred Goldikova elected to HOF

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) Jockeys Javier Castellano, Victor Espinoza and Garrett Gomez and thoroughbred Goldikova have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.

The 39-year-old Castellano has won the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey the past four years. Entering the week, he had 4,664 career wins and was ranked fifth all-time in purse earnings, with more than $276 million.

The 44-year-old Espinoza had 3,318 wins entering the week, with purse earnings of more than $193 million, which ranks him 17th all-time. He won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 2015 aboard American Pharoah.

Gomez, who died last year, won 3,769 races, with purse earnings of more than $205 million to rank 14th all-time.

Goldikova posted a career record of 17-6-3 from 27 starts to earn $7,176,551. The filly is the only three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner (2008-10).

The induction ceremony is Aug. 4 in Saratoga Springs, New York.