07/15/2004 11:00PM

Drug test plan delayed

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A plan to test all horses in graded stakes for more than 100 illegal substances has been postponed indefinitely because of difficulties in implementing the tests.

Stephen Duncker, the chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's graded stakes committee, said the plan had to be postponed because of wide-ranging differences in how labs and racing commissions test for illegal drugs. The plan had previously been scheduled to be put in place July 1.

"What we've found so far is that you have to go state by state by state by state," Duncker said Friday. "The racing commissions are not saying that they don't want to do it. They are saying, 'We use this lab, and the lab can't test for that.' So then we have to work with the lab."

The graded stakes committee assigns the grades for all stakes in the country. Currently, 480 stakes have been assigned either Grade 1, 2, or 3 status, and the committee decided last year to require the large-scale drug tests as a prerequisite to receiving a grade.

At the same time, a task force set up by the National Thorough-bred Racing Association has been working to develop uniform medication rules and penalties for all racing jurisdictions. Duncker said his committee is attempting to work in tandem with that panel.