09/23/2013 3:59PM

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approves funding for medication studies


The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Monday approved funding for two projects designed to better understand the physiological impacts of medications, both legal and illegal, on horses.

Both projects will use money from the commission’s Equine Drug Research Council for funding. The first will allow the council to partner with the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a national group, on a five-month study of multiple medications in a herd of Thoroughbreds at a Lexington-area clinic. The other will allow the council to provide money to Kentucky’s drug-testing laboratory to rapidly analyze drugs or substances that are found at racetracks or rumored to be in use.

Dr. Mary Scollay, the racing commission’s equine medical director, said the study on the herd of Thoroughbreds would cost $135,000. The commission would be responsible for the fees allowing for the use the herd, which consists of nine Thoroughbreds, while the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium would pay for the analysis of the samples.

The intent of the herd study is to scientifically determine withdrawal times for therapeutic medications and to analyze a substance that Scollay would not identify that is a “potential performance-enhancing substance.” Withdrawal times are used to advise horsemen on when to stop using a therapeutic medication in order to avoid a positive test on race day.

Scollay said she did not want to identify the performance-enhancing substance in order to avoid alerting horsemen that may be using the drug illegally. She said the drug has been detected in the world of professional bicycle racing and has been rumored to be in use in other racing jurisdictions.

The results of the herd study will be distributed to other racing commissions and regulatory organizations, Scollay said.

The second project, which had already been approved by the commission at its July meeting pending a review of the contract with the drug-testing laboratory, will make as much as $250,000 available to the HFL Sports Science lab in Lexington over two years. Called the Rapid Response Substance Testing Program, it will analyze newfound substances for efficacy and determine means to detect the substances in post-race tests.

The commission is putting the program in place at a time when racing officials are increasingly concerned about the use of substances on race day that may not have any efficacy but are marketed as both powerful and undetectable.

◗ Also at the meeting, the commission’s veterinary officials said that nine horses suffered fatalities at the recently concluded Ellis Park meet, a number that they said was alarming. Eight of the horses suffered fatal injuries while racing, while one died while training. Eight suffered musculo-skeletal injuries, while the other was “cardiovascular in nature,” the vet officials said. The commission’s safety committee was asked to look into the spate of injuries, which occurred after many trainers complained about the state of Ellis Park’s racing surface. The complaints were resolved by the start of the meet, however.

◗ The racing commission also put off approving a new pick-six wager at Churchill Downs that would pay out a special jackpot only if a single ticket had the six winners. The commission said it wanted more time to study the wager after its parimutuel adviser said he was concerned that a single bettor could miss out on the jackpot in rare instances, such as the late scratch of a horse that would add the favorite to the bettor’s ticket, even if the favorite was already on the ticket. That would result in the bettor having two perfect tickets, thus canceling out the jackpot.

The commission said it expected to revisit the proposed pick six at its October meeting.