01/25/2006 1:00AM

Indiana a step ahead of the pack


TUCSON, Ariz. - You may not know Joe Gorajec's name unless you're from Indiana, but he is a mover and a shaker whose voice in racing administration is heard well beyond Hoosierdom.

Gorajec is the only executive director the Indiana Horse Racing Commission has ever had. He was determined, when he took the job 15 years ago, to make Indiana a leader in racing, and he has worked hard and productively toward that goal.

This week, the Indiana commission considered a proposal from Gorajec that would expand his horizons, and Indiana's.

It is called Integrity '06, and is strong medicine. Its focus is deterring administration of unauthorized medication on race days, and many of its recommendations extend far beyond current industry practices. If adopted, it could boost Indiana's already lofty status as a leader in tough enforcement.

Gorajec proposes identifying each horse scheduled to race with a highly visible stall sign reading "In Today." The track would be required to employ additional security to deter and detect any prohibited practices. Ship-ins - those horses coming from offtrack facilities, a major security problem in racing - would have to arrive early on race day "to provide some level of oversight parity between horses stabled on and off the track."

Gorajec makes no secret that he thinks veterinarians are part of racing's medication problem. He proposes requiring practicing veterinarians to be escorted by a track employee during the period of time that Salix (furosemide, commonly known as Lasix) is administered, and that all race-day draws of Salix into the syringe for administration be made by, or in view of, an association employee.

To Gorajec's and the Indiana Racing Commission's credit, nothing other than Salix can be administered to a horse racing in Indiana during the 24 hours prior to post time. All racing jurisdictions should have that courage and foresight.

No prerace injectibles can be used or possessed, and under Gorajec's proposal daily medication reports would have to be filed by veterinarians. They also would have to file medication reports of all administrations to horses racing in Indiana but stabled offtrack. And trainers or other licensees would be prohibited from utilizing offtrack services of veterinarians who are suspended, excluded, or ineligible for licensing.

Indiana's blood gas program - the detection of milkshaking - differs from industry standards in two ways. First, there is a testing laboratory ontrack, so horses with high blood gas levels can be scratched prior to the start of a race, rather than be disqualified after, as in most other racing jurisdictions. This protects the public, and in some cases trainers and owners, from receiving penalties after the fact. Second, the Indiana program runs blood gas tests on both harness horses and Thoroughbreds, not true in many states.

Gorajec proposes having the tracks pay for testing and increased security by deducting 3 percent from their subsidies from Indiana's unique program where riverboat admissions taxes are used to help offset the floating casinos' heavy competition to the state's racing industry. The riverboat subsidy payments to tracks are not insignificant. Last year they amounted to $27,083,893.

Gorajec said he feels he can cut this subsidy because Indiana racing law says the commission may make a subsidy grant only for purses, promotions, and routine operations of the racetrack. He considers security a routine operation of the track.

Rick Moore and Jon Schuster, who run Indiana's two tracks, Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs, both believe in limiting race-day medication. They think Gorajec's plan has merit, but say his funding formula needs study and discussion. The Indiana Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday agreed, deferring action on Gorajec's proposal until its next meeting on March 7, in order to give the tracks and other involved parties an opportunity to study the proposal.

The transfer of all costs to the track may be convenient and easy, but it is not necessarily equitable. Horse racing is an agricultural industry in all states that present it. Indiana understands that, as its riverboat subsidy bill protecting racing indicates clearly. Policing racing is the state's job as well as the track's, and the state should share the cost, not merely dump it on tracks already hard-pressed economically.

Gorajec surveyed other racing commissions regarding their security practices and received 16 responses. Of the states that answered, only one - Minnesota - requires supervision of the Salix draw. Only three prohibit veterinarians from possessing predrawn or loaded syringes in their vehicles. Only four prohibit trainers stabled offtrack from utilizing services of suspended vets. And only one, again Minnesota, requires licensed vets to be escorted by a commission or track employee on race day.

That noise you hear is Joe Gorajec, shaking things up again.