It is unclear whether the owners of a five-year-old mare had planned to expose it to hard drugs when they named it “Party Till Dawn,” but we do know that the young horse has since run into trouble for it. An analysis of the urine sample it gave after a race in Queensland, Australia, in June has just tested positive for methamphetamine. As Party Till Dawn won second prize in that race, her sample is highly suspect, but her story is not exactly unprecedented.
Her trainer, Ben Currie, is expected to appear before the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission next week. The situation will not be altogether unfamiliar to Currie, who has been fined some $4,300 in the past after another of his horses, Tints, tested positive for boldenone, an illegal steroid substance that boosts the growth of muscle. He’s planning to contest that particular ruling, though he has yet to comment on Party Till Dawn’s meth use.
She is not the first racehorse to have been caught with meth in her system. In Texas, five horses tested positive for meth just this year. In 2015, the owner of the horse Bourbon Warfare, Kellyn Gorder, was fined and temporarily banned after his horse tested positive for traces of meth and a needle was found in his stable. Back in Australia, another horse named Island Tang tested positive for both meth and amphetamine in April of this year, but her owner revealed that the horse had been in close contact with a handler who was a regular user of meth.
This story seems to be a fairly common one. In the case of the Texas horses, the levels of meth found in some of the horses were so minuscule — for Bourbon Warfare, amounts ranged from 48 to 57 picograms — that it seems impossible that they were the result of an intentional dose and far more likely that they represented accidental exposure to humans doing meth. Many trainers have criticized the harsh punishments doled out by racing commissions for being unreasonable. In 2015, a renowned trainer named Mac Robertson, whose horse Purest Form tested positive for trace amounts of meth, told the Star-Tribune that the amounts were so minute that they could very well be environmental. “We fired them, but it could be anybody, anything,” he said. “Some guy takes a leak in the stable and the horse eats the hay. Somebody rubs their hand across the horse’s nostrils or mouth.”
In the same article, Steven Barker, Ph.D., a professor of veterinary medicine at LSU, commenting on Bourbon Warfare’s meth loads, said the levels were not “enough to get a flea high.” For comparison, according to the drug resource Erowid, about 50 milligrams of pure meth are required to induce a toxic overdose in a non-tolerant user. In other words, the amount found in Bourbon Warfare — about 50 picograms — is equivalent to about 0.00000005 milligrams. That’s a huge difference, especially when you consider that a horse usually weighs around 1,200 pounds.
Knowing the amount of meth found in Party Till Dawn’s sample could be what sways the verdict for or against Currie’s case. Nobody really knows what giving a horse a large dose of meth would do to it, though seeing as it causes intense physical and mental stimulation in humans, it is not hard to imagine that some meth-using trainers would attempt to find out. The real question, as Death and Taxes pointed out, is “why so many folks into meth are also into horses.” If this is in fact the case with Party Till Dawn, it’s a shame her name has earned her the bad reputation, when it’s far more likely her handlers are to blame.