By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
As his case dragged over two years, more than a dozen Ziadie thoroughbreds failed drug tests. Cenzontle failed twice. Yet when Ziadie's luck finally did end, it was no thanks to state regulators.
In July 2009, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering received three anonymous complaints. "He... come[s] late at nights when no one is there to give his 'vitamins,' " began a letter from someone who said he worked for the trainer. "He carries a black briefcase and sometimes he takes the needles out of it to inject the horses."
The letter continued, "If you get someone to search the car or truck, you will find the drugs there... That is the real stuff that he gives the horses to make them run faster or hide their pain so they could run on race days."
Another letter claimed, "I have known this young man since his teenage years and ever since then, he was filled with greed to win races." A third accused Ziadie of avoiding suspensions by racing his horses under other trainers' names.
One of Ziadie's employees began cooperating with Calder. The unnamed assistant gave the track's security manager, Steve Diamond, hypodermic syringes full of drugs that he claimed Ziadie had told him to inject into various horses shortly before their races.
"I hope I am not placed in danger and that my name is not revealed," the informant wrote, adding that Ziadie often killed barn pigeons with a shotgun. "[If] he finds out... he is crazy and capable of killing me or paying someone else to do it for him."
On August 20, 2009 — five years after Calder was first informed of the trainer's drug violations — Ziadie was finally banned from the track. Calder officials gave him 72 hours to remove his 50 horses.
Incredibly, state regulators closed their case against Ziadie a few months later when the informant abruptly disappeared. Even more outrageous: Despite 38 drug violations in less than five years, Ziadie never returned a cent of the more than $10 million his horses won. State law allows the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to reclaim winnings after tainted races, but the agency simply never asked. Instead, it fined Ziadie a total of $13,100 — less than the prize for a single race.
He was also banned from other tracks in Florida, including Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs. But other states weren't aware of Ziadie's record. It wasn't long before Laurel Park in Maryland gave him ten stalls. And Chicago horse owner Frank Calabrese hired him to train his thoroughbreds. Soon, Ziadie was back in Florida. Gulfstream agreed to give him a stall in February 2011. Then, last October, Calder granted the disgraced trainer five stalls and permission to race.
Calder officials defend their handling of Ziadie's violations. Marshall says the track took action to ban Ziadie before the state's two-month suspension, and denied numerous reinstatement requests from the trainer until they were satisfied he'd reformed.
"It's important to understand that legal medications are a part of racing," Marshall says. "Most of those violations on Kirk's record weren't for illegal drugs; they were for legal medications that exceeded state limits."
Ziadie is now back to his winning ways. Last fall he won 33 percent of his races, fifth-best among trainers who raced at least ten horses. So far this year, he has won 23 of his 68 races (34 percent), putting him on track to finish as one of Calder's top trainers.
His other habits have resurfaced too. His horses have already tested positive for high bute levels three times this year, including twice at Calder. Because state regulators recently lowered the allowed limit, however, they gave him a free pass. Other trainers at Calder are furious that the race course has allowed Ziadie to return. "After all those positives?" said one, who asked to remain anonymous. "It's unbelievable."
In an interview with New Times, Ziadie gives contradictory statements. He claims his two-year ban was due to financial problems after several horse owners stopped paying him. Confronted with records showing the ban was actually due to drug infractions, he admits to having "some positives." But he describes the drugs as "low-grade medications similar to aspirin for humans."
Ziadie says he's a winner because he treats his horses better — not worse — than other trainers. "I love my horses. My horses run because they are happy. They are treated like King James in my stalls," he says. "They've got no proof of me doing anything wrong. They've never found a needle on me."
Presented with specific evidence of doping — including the drug-filled syringes his employee handed over to Calder — Ziadie admits to making "mistakes."
"How many horses have I trained?" he says. "Over a thousand. So to me, [41 positives] is nothing. That's just carelessness."
Then Ziadie becomes defiant, calling the employee who ratted on him a "faggot."
"I didn't want no faggots working for me, so I fired him."
And he blames his bad reputation on the "enemies" he's made by winning at the track.