02/03/2012 4:33PM

Graded Stakes committee reaches deal in Louisiana

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The American Graded Stakes Committee has agreed to allow graded stakes in Louisiana to retain their grades as long as the state’s racing commission enforces the lower phenylbutazone threshold level adopted by the committee in 2010 when conducting postrace drug tests for the stakes, an official with the organization said on Friday.

The agreement was designed to protect the grades in the absence of a rule in Louisiana that lowers the threshold level for the popular painkiller phenylbutazone. The Louisiana Racing Commission adopted a rule late last year lowering the threshold level on an emergency basis, but that rule was rescinded this year by an order of a state legislative committee. Horsemen had objected to the committee that the commission had circumvented the normal rule-making process in order to adopt the rule.

Andrew Schweigardt, the administrator of the graded stakes committee, said the agreement with the racing commission requires postrace tests from horses running in graded stakes to be subjected to the lower threshold limit. The commission will also need to show progress that it is working toward adopting a rule enabling the lower threshold level.

“The committee is fine with that, as long as there’s testing done on those samples according to the drug-testing protocol for graded stakes races,” Schweigardt said.

Fair Grounds hosts several prep races for the Kentucky Derby, and eligibility for the Derby field is determined by earnings in graded stakes races.

Officials for the Louisiana Racing Commission did not immediately return phone calls on Friday. Charles Gardiner, the commission’s executive director, had previously said that the commission expects to adopt the lower threshold limit on a non-emergency basis by April.