03/19/2007 12:00AM

Indiana cuts loopholes for suspended trainers


The Indiana Horse Racing Commission approved a rule on Friday that mandates horses that are under the care of some suspended trainers must be transferred out of the trainer's stable in order to enter a race.

The rule, which passed 5-0 and became effective immediately, is the first of its kind for any U.S. racing jurisdiction, though elements of the rule have been debated for years among racing regulators. Under the rule, a horse that is conditioned by any trainer who has been suspended for more than 15 days would have to be transferred to an unrelated trainer in order to start in a race.

"We want to have assurances that the people who are not supposed to have any contact with these animals are not in fact having any contact with these animals," said Joe Gorajec, the executive director of the commission, on Monday.

Specifically, the rule states that no trainer under a 15-day or longer suspension may transfer his or her horses to a "relative, assistant, employee, or household member." In effect, the rule would bar any horse in the stable's barn from competing while the trainer is under suspension unless it was transferred to another trainer.

The rule did not initially include a 15-day threshold, but that term was added to the regulation on Friday at the insistence of horsemen. The vast majority of suspensions fall under the 15-day limit, including those that deal with relatively benign overages for legal drugs such as painkillers and the diuretic furosemide, which is used to treat bleeding in the lungs.

"There was some input from horsemen that the burden the owner might suffer with regard to change in a training regimen and also a possible change in location might be too much," Gorajec said. "The commission didn't believe that the argument was compelling in all cases, but they did feel that a relatively minor infraction should not impact the owner to the same degree."

Regulators have wrestled recently with how to enforce suspensions in such a way that a suspended trainer is not merely training his or her horses from a distance. In recent years, some regulators, including those in California and Kentucky, have considered rules that would result in a horse being prohibited from racing while a trainer is suspended for a second or third serious drug infraction, but those rules would not allow the horse to run for another trainer.

Ed Martin, the executive director of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, an umbrella group for state racing commissions, said that the Indiana rule would be discussed by the organization's model rules committee in the future. If the model rules committee approves the rule, it would be forwarded as a recommendation for other racing commissions to adopt.