04/16/2013 1:03PM

Dick Jerardi: Mid-Atlantic uniform Thoroughbred drug-testing program is within reach

Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude, a two-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, likely will be favored in Saturday's Charles Town Classic.

Getting horsemen, management, racing commissions, and state legislatures to agree on anything is difficult. Getting all of those disparate interests to agree on uniform medication and drug-testing programs is more than difficult. Getting that agreement to spread to eight states really would seem impossible.

But surprisingly, it is close, very close to becoming a reality. If a few more hurdles can be overcome, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts will have in place what is being called the “Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication Program” in early 2014.

It is generally agreed that Alan Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, has been critical in bringing all the parties to the table to make this happen.

“Alan Foreman has been the one who has been coordinating and spearheading and working with a lot of the commissioners,” said Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming.

This has been a problem in search of a solution for decades. There are still legislative and administrative hurdles to jump, but the essence of a deal is there.

“This most recent push has been since last fall,” McErlean said.

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Under the program, horsemen will be limited to 24 therapeutic medications, including acepromazine, flunixin, and furosemide, that each will have specific times of administration that would lead to acceptable, small levels permitted on race day. There will be a second category of substances that are strictly prohibited.

“The largest concentration of racing in the United States on a daily basis is conducted in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast,” Foreman said in a recent statement. “Some 18 racetracks operate within a 200-mile radius. Many horsemen race in more than one state, and, in some instances, on the same day. There is no region in the country where uniformity is more imperative than in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.”

Making this happen obviously has been complicated.

“It was, and it still is,” McErlean said.

Administrative rules must be changed in some states. Other states have to change statutes.

“Hopefully, by early 2014, everybody will be working off the same set of rules,” McErlean said.

The game should be about a level playing field – for every stakeholder, including the players.

“I think not only optically, this is a good thing,” McErlean said. “In reality, it’s a good thing for everyone.”

Penn National Gaming has tracks in other areas of the country. Similar regional attempts at uniformity are being considered but are not as far along as in the Mid-Atlantic.

“Hopefully, this kind of spreads into a wave that other places will get on board as well,” McErlean said.

Apprentice McCarthy breaks leg

Talented Maryland apprentice Trevor McCarthy, 18, broke his left tibia in a training accident April 11 at Laurel Park. McCarthy, who finished second in the rider standings at the winter Laurel meet, won six races during the opening week at Pimlico. He likely will be out eight to 10 weeks.

“The timing isn’t great because we had our sights on the Eclipse Award,” said McCarthy’s agent, Scott Silver. “But the doctors are telling us it should be a quick healing process. Hopefully, he’ll be back on horses in six weeks.”

Strong field for Charles Town Classic

The 52 nominees to the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on Saturday have a combined 16 Grade 1 wins and $32 million in earnings. Game On Dude, twice the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and the hottest horse in America, is the most accomplished of the nominees. His 7 3/4-length margin of victory in the 2013 Santa Anita Handicap was the biggest in the 76-year history of a race won by some of the best horses in American racing.

Memories of Broad Brush

That crazy race at Pimlico last Saturday, in which the front-running Spicer Cub bolted not once but twice and then squeezed between the starting gate and the outer rail before closing like a wild horse to lose by a nose, brought back memories of the 1986 Pennsylvania Derby at what was then called Philadelphia Park.

Broad Brush looked like an easy winner until he went straight instead of left at the head of the stretch. Angel Cordero came very close to bailing before the horse slowed down and finally made that left turn. Incredibly, Broad Brush not only started running again but passed all the horses who had passed him and won the race like the sensational horse he proved to be.