09/19/2005 11:00PM

CHRB seeks surveillance power

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board is finalizing language for a proposed rule that would allow the board to greatly increase surveillance on the backstretch, including the right to install video cameras in barns or require that a horse be placed in a security area at "the sole and absolute discretion of the Board," the proposed rule states.

The rule states that any horse, stable, or trainer on racetrack premises can be subject to surveillance. Owners or trainers that fail to comply could be barred from the racetrack or face a fine or suspension, according to the proposed language.

The California Office of Administrative Law must approve the rule before it can go into effect. The CHRB has asked that the rule be given an emergency clause allowing it to go into effect 10 days after the language is approved. Speaking at a meeting of the CHRB's ad-hoc security committee at Santa Anita on Tuesday, commissioner Richard Shapiro said the rule could take effect during the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, which runs from Sept. 28 to Nov. 6.

In a statement that accompanied the proposed rule, racing board officials cited the perception that horses are being treated with banned drugs as a contributing factor in a decline of attendance and handle.

"We need the teeth to do what the public wants," Shapiro said. "It's hurting our business. If trainers don't like it, they can head down the road."

It is possible that changes may be made to the rule before it is sent to the office of administrative law, including adding specific language regarding what criteria would result in a trainer or a horse being placed under surveillance.

The rule is the CHRB's latest effort in escalating backstretch security.

Earlier this year, as a result of 2004 discussions by the ad-hoc security committee, California racetracks began prerace testing for excessive levels of carbon dioxide.

To date, six trainers in Southern California have been cited for excessive carbon dioxide levels. Five trainers had their horses placed in a detention barn or under surveillance in the 24 hours in advance of a race for a period of 30 days. Cole Norman, a trainer based in Louisiana, was barred from entering horses in California for a year after his lone starter at Del Mar, in July, was found to have an excessive level of carbon dioxide. Norman can petition racetracks and horsemen's organizations to run a horse in the state during that time.