09/02/2005 12:00AM

Kentucky HBPA loses bid to delay drug rules


FRANKFORT, KY. - A U.S. Circuit Court judge on Friday denied the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association's request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing new race-day medication rules.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Robert Crittenden said that the horsemen's association failed to show that the state's trainers and veterinarians would be irreparably harmed by the new rules, which restrict race-day medication to the diuretic Lasix and several other medications thought to treat bleeding in the lungs.

Crittenden, however, did enjoin the state from enforcing several provisions of the new regulations against veterinarians, contending that the language, in some interpretations, could prevent veterinarians from treating horses with legitimate medications, though not on race day.

As a result of the ruling, the new race-day medication rules will be enforced beginning Sept. 7, opening day of the Turfway Park fall meet in northern Kentucky. The regulations were signed by Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher two weeks ago and put in place under an expedited basis under so-called emergency rules.

Two weeks ago, the horsemen's association sued the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, which approved the rules on Aug. 15, contending that the governor did not have the power to approve the rules under his emergency powers. The horsemen's suit was joined by a group of 15 racetrack veterinarians at the start of the hearing, which began on Thursday but was extended to a second day because of lengthy testimony.

On Friday, Rick Hiles, an owner and trainer who has held multiple positions of leadership at various affiliates of the national Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said during testimony that he would be unable to race certain horses in Kentucky under the new rules. During cross-examination, however, Hiles said that he is able to race his horses in Florida, where the race-day medication rules are similar to the new rules that will shortly go into effect in Kentucky.

Horsemen have hinted over the past several weeks that they would refuse to enter horses for the Turfway Park meet if the preliminary injunction was not granted. After the ruling, the Kentucky horsemen's group's executive director, Marty Maline, said that he could not comment on how the ruling might affect Turfway's entries, which will be taken Sunday for Wednesday's card.

"In the meetings I've had throughout the state, there's been some genuine concern and confusion over the rules, and there have been some comments made," Maline said when asked about a possible boycott. "We have not suggested that, but there have been some comments made by individual horsemen."

Although the new rules will begin to be enforced beginning Wednesday, the rules will not be formally approved until after a 60-day public comment period and the approval of the state's Legislative Research Council, a process that typically takes 180 days. The Kentucky horsemen's association is expected to object to the rules during that process in the hope of overturning several provisions, including the general prohibition on prescribing painkillers such as phenylbutazone, banamine, and ketoprofen, on race day.

Judge Crittenden made his ruling after the state's attorneys issued a clarification on how the state will enforce certain aspects of the rules. The clarifications were issued after several veterinarians testified that the rules could prohibit them from administering certain treatments to horses who are not entered to race, including alkalizing agents, tranquilizers, and commonly used medications that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.