02/15/2012 4:13PM

Kentucky commission funding morphine study

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The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Wednesday approved a measure to provide $5,000 in funding to conduct a study in partnership with the British Horseracing Association to determine whether existing drug tests could differentiate between a post-race finding of morphine that is ingested by horses and morphine that is injected directly into a horse’s joints.

Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director of the commission, said that investigators on both sides of the Atlantic had uncovered information that horsemen may be injecting morphine into joints as a painkiller, though the efficacy of using the drug to deaden pain in such a way is questionable.

“The concerns are international,” Dr. Scollay said. “We have been told that this is a procedure that occurs.”

The intentional injection of morphine would be a Class 1 violation, subject to stiff penalties. However, morphine exists in trace amounts in many naturally occurring substances, including hay, and regulators would need a way to determine whether the substance was intentionally administered in order to adjudicate any post-race findings.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved a request by Kentucky Downs to install an additional 75 Instant Racing machines, bringing the track’s total number of the devices to 275. Since the machines were installed in September, 2011, they have generated nearly $2.9 million in revenue for Kentucky Downs and $400,000 in purse subsidies, according to figures distributed by the commission at the Wednesday meeting.

The commission also approved Churchill Downs’s acquisition of a 5 percent stake in Kentucky Downs held by Brad Kelley. The stake brings Churchill’s share in Kentucky Downs to 10 percent.