NM coach banned for 16 years for multiple drug offences

Coach Aurelio Valdez is suspended until September 24, 2038, following multiple suspensions and fines issued by the New Mexico Racing Commission on November 22.

The commission found eight different Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses that Valdez had administered prohibited substances to. He earned 38 points under the Commission’s scoring system for multiple drug violations.

New Mexico Racing Commission Executive Director Izzy Trejo said he expects Valdez, who was previously suspended until April 9, 2023, to appeal that final penalty loop. In addition to the suspensions, Valdez was fined $5,000 per incident for a total of $40,000.

“It’s such a shame that the game is played at such a low level that he played it here in New Mexico,” Trejo said, “and it’s our job and duty to eradicate the industry of these types of people.”

The Class B drug Guanabenz was found in the blood sample of four horses trained by Valdez that ran Albuquerque Downs in August. Guanabenz is used to control high blood pressure but can also be used to control an overexcited horse and allow it to focus better.

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The first of the four was Reining pesos who won the second race at Albuquerque Downs on August 13th. Due to previous violations, 180 days have been added to the suspension Valdez is currently serving for a stack violation. The Deputy’s Echo who finished second in the fourth race on August 20, and El Tarasco 727, a quarter horse who finished sixth in the sixth race on August 20, took second and third place. The fourth, Royal Queen came in third in the first race on August 26th. The last three of these cases carried a one-year ban plus an additional year for prior offences.

All horses were disqualified and all pocket money must be returned and redistributed.

Valdez was originally licensed for the 2013 season but then experienced disciplinary issues and only returned to training in 2018. His life record is 29-20-21 in 186 starts. This year Valdez is 6-1-5 out of 40 starts. His career earnings are $578,553, adding $207,895 in 2022.

Attempts to contact Valdez were unsuccessful.

If you read the list of fines and suspensions listed on the ARCI website and think that New Mexico has more penalties than most other states, you are not wrong.

Trejo said cleaning up the sport is a top priority for his administration. The state, he said, has one of the worst records for racing integrity in the United States.

Under Trejo’s leadership, the commission changed the rules. It instituted different rules as well as a rigorous out-of-competition program to screen for Class A drugs such as growth supplements, beta-agonists and cobalt. Horses that test positive for a banned substance are placed on the steward’s list for 60 days and cannot race again until they test clean.

“As we have increased our out-of-competition testing, we have found that our post-race violations have dropped significantly,” said Trejo. “In 2017, when we started pulling data, our post-race positivity rate was 3.5% of our samples dirty. And now, in the last couple of years, we’ve gotten that down to below 1% at 0.8, .9 range.”

Another problem the commission has tried to solve is paper training, where the coach listed is not the actual coach, but someone without a license. To address these concerns, the New Mexico system penalizes the owner and horse and prevents it from running until the appropriate case is fully decided. If an owner “wants to appeal for several years and keep taking it to court,” Trejo said, the horse would be banned until the case is resolved.