Top N.Y. trainer faces suspension

NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- Peter Ferriola, the winningest trainer in New York over the last 10 years, and two other local trainers have been informed by NYRA stewards that their horses have tested positive for cocaine.

No penalties will be announced until the individuals have had hearings, but it is all but certain that each will be given a 60-day suspension.


The other trainers involved are John Mazza, who is based in New Jersey, and Spasoje Dimitrijevic.

The Ferriola-trained The Mechanic came back positive for the drug after finishing second in the second race at Belmont on Sept. 8, a $35,000 claiming race. He went off at odds of 3-1.


Ferriola said yesterday he was innocent, but that he was tired of fighting the system and would not file any appeal.

"I wish I knew how it happened," he said. "This is terrible. How can you fight them? Even when you're right, you still wind up doing your days. You've got to take the days, get it over with and hope they don't do anything to you again."

Ferriola, whose meteoric rise to the top of the trainer standings has made him a controversial figure in New York racing, received a 120-day suspension in 1987 for illegal use of Lasix. He staged a lengthy fight against those charges but eventually had to serve his penalty.

Because cocaine use among humans is a serious problem on the backstretch, it is far from impossible that the drug could end up in a horse's system because of contact with handlers. Nonetheless, racing regulations require that the trainer take ultimate responsibility for any drug positives, no matter the circumstances.

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board ruled in the Lasix incident that neither Ferriola's wife nor his daughter, each of whom is a licensed trainer, could run his stable during his absence.

Ferriola said he understands the same order will be in effect and that he is searching for a trainer to take over the stable once the suspension sets in.