02/18/2015 9:15PM

California board moves closer to third-party Lasix administration


ARCADIA, Calif. – The California Horse Racing Board moved closer to implementing rules for third-party administration of Lasix, voiding claims when a horse bleeds from the nostrils, and amending the criteria for disqualifications when interference occurs during races at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

The racing board is expected to authorize third-party administration of Lasix later this year. On Wednesday, the board voted to allow a 45-day public-comment period on the subject, which is part of the rulemaking process. If the measure is approved, the language must be reviewed by the state’s office of administrative law before taking effect.

The medication would be administered by veterinarians or veterinary technicians who will be prohibited from working as private veterinarians or technicians at the racetrack and do not have a business relationship with trainers. Such a policy is in effect in several states, including Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.

The board launched a 45-day public-comment period on a rule change that would void the claim on horses who bleed from the nostrils during a race. Currently, claims are voided on horses found to be unsound in post-race examinations conducted by the state or official track veterinarian. 

Some racing board commissioners were skeptical of voiding claims on bleeders, but the measure has the support of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association.

The racing board approved a change to the decades-old absolute insurer rule that penalizes a trainer when a horse tests positive for a banned medication or shows an excessive level of a permitted medication. The amended rule would make an owner liable for a penalty if a horse housed at a location not subject to racing board regulations is sent to a trainer at a racetrack within a week of a race and later tests positive.

Under the new rule, a horse must be at the racetrack for seven days before a race.

The rule change is aimed at reducing the number of instances, notably in Quarter Horse racing, in which a horse is trained at a farm, sent to a trainer in the days before a race, and then tests positive. In some of those cases, the racetrack trainer was not aware what medications a horse had been given in advance of the race.

“This puts the owner on the hook,” said executive director Rick Baedeker.

The racing board tabled an item regarding a potential change to the criteria for a disqualification in a race. In a one-hour discussion, board members debated three potential versions of rules guiding stewards on the definitions of interference and when to disqualify a horse in incidents of interference or bumping.

No action was taken after Baedeker said that some of the proposed language of the rule change may not be approved by the office of administrative law.

“I have been pushing this a little too hard and trying to move it too quickly,” Baedeker said. “We should come back to the board with a version that will go to the office of administrative law and pass muster.”

Discussions on rules dictating interference and disqualifications have been held since mid-November, first with track stewards at a conference that brought together officials from throughout the state, and later by racing board members. On Nov. 1, Santa Anita stewards were roundly criticized in some circles for not disqualifying Bayern from first place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic after he severely bumped Shared Belief shortly after the start of the race at 1 1/4 miles.

Baedeker said on Wednesday that the issue was scheduled for discussion before the BC Classic was run.

“The goal was to achieve more precise wording,” he said.

On Monday, a similar event took place when Bert’s Melody bumped with Marina Del Heat shortly after the start of an optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles on turf. After an inquiry, the stewards did not change the order of finish, stating that Marina Del Heat broke slowly and contributed to the trouble.

Marina Del Heat is co-owned by racing board commissioner Madeline Auerbach, who used Wednesday’s meeting to question Santa Anita steward Scott Chaney on the reason for the decision not to disqualify Bert’s Melody.

“We got taken out at the start of the race,” Auerbach said. “Not only did they not take the horse down, but they blamed my horse for part of the problem.”

She later said that an emphasis should be placed on safety if rules are changed.

“My view is our first priority, when we’re looking at this, is the safety of the riders, and our second priority is the safely of the horses,” Auerbach said.

Racing board chairman Chuck Winner disagreed with Auerbach and sided with the stewards regarding Monday’s inquiry.

“I looked at the race 50 times,” he said. “I would not have disqualified that horse. I think the decision we made was right. That’s based on the rule we currently have. I would not have taken the horse down.”

Much of the racing board’s conversation with Chaney focused on situations similar to the Bayern-Shared Belief incident in which interference occurs, but it is unclear whether it affects the eventual order of finish.

“This is not a perfect situation,” Winner said. “There will always be subjective judgments. We want it to be as consistent and clear as it can be. It’s a difficult task. Maybe there is better rule to be written. I do think this is worth evaluating.”

Winner said the subject would be discussed in the coming months at the committee level before being addressed again by the racing board.

“All of these are judgment calls,” he said at the conclusion of the discussion. “What is interference and what is not interference? All of these things can be discussed. No one will be real happy with the outcome.”