Even if I Want Revenge wins the Kentucky Derby May 2, Jeff Mullins will be barred from Churchill Downs the next day. That's when the frequently penalized trainer will begin serving a seven-day suspension for a violation April 4 at Aqueduct's race-day security barn.
So instead of hosting the traditional morning-after news conference on the backstretch, perhaps Mullins could field questions from the other side of the fence. Another possible venue: the VFW hall opposite the track's main gate.
"It would be pretty strange if we won and he wasn't there at the barn the next day,'' said Michael Iavarone, co-president of IEAH Stables, which bought 50 percent of I Want Revenge March 30. "Mullins is the fly in the ointment as far as the publicity goes. I just hope it doesn't take anything away from . But for what he's done with this horse, he deserves a lot of credit.''
Aqueduct's stewards scratched Gato Go Win from the Bay Shore Stakes after security personnel saw Mullins use a metal syringe to administer an oral dose of Air Power, an over-the-counter medication described as cough medicine. Its ingredients are hardly sinister: honey, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, menthol, eucalyptus oil and ethyl alcohol.
Mullins called it "an honest mistake," saying he didn't know that on race day in New York you can't give a horse anything except Lasix.
"He shouldn't have done it," Iavarone said. "He should have done his homework and known the rules. I've only spoken with him once in my life and I told him he should man up and admit he was wrong.''
Mullins, 46, is a man of controversy with 26 documented violations, including drug suspensions of a year (in 1986) and 90 days (2006). In 2005 he called horseplayers "idiots,'' so he'll never be considered an ambassador for racing.