12/29/2004 12:00AM

Gulfstream to test for milkshakes

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park will implement pre-race testing for sodium bicarbonate levels during the upcoming 2005 meeting. The testing is meant to detect the practice of milkshaking, which is the administration of sodium bicarbonate, typically through a tube, directly into a horse's stomach. A milkshake is generally considered a performance enhancer.

The testing will be funded by Gulfstream Park and the Florida division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said FHBPA president Linda Mills.

"The tests will be run under house rules," Mills said. "The state is not involved."

Florida has no regulation that specifically addresses milkshakes.

The tests will be administered on a random basis, except for graded stakes races. Horses in every graded stakes will be tested.

"We'll select three races a day at random sometime during the late morning on each racing day," said Scott Savin, Gulfstream Park general manager. "All horses in the races selected will be tested."

Penalties for trainers whose horses test positive for bicarbonate have not been determined, Mills said, but could range from loss of purse for the first offense to "severe penalties" for subsequent offenses.

Mills said talks about implementing the testing had been ongoing for several weeks.

"Right now there is a perceived abuse of milkshaking in many areas of the country, including Florida," Mills said. "This testing should help us determine if it's just that - perceived use by the super trainers, or if we've got a real problem down here."

Savin said no date had been set to begin testing, but that it could start in mid-January.

"We're not going to rush into this thing," he said. "We want it to be implemented properly."

Mills said the testing procedure will be similar to the one set up at Santa Anita, which like Gulfstream is owned by Magna Entertainment. A vial of blood will be drawn from each horse, and the samples will be taken to a testing stall set up adjacent to the paddock.