12/11/2013 4:50PM

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approves uniform drug rules

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The ideal of medication uniformity in Thoroughbred racing in America drew a big step closer to reality Wednesday when the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved changes to the state’s medication rules, aligning Kentucky with 10 other states to take similar action this year.

The approval by an 11-0 vote (with one abstention) came at a regularly scheduled commission meeting at the Kentucky Horse Park. That result was widely expected after an advisory panel to the commission, the Equine Drug Research Council, formally recommended the changes Dec. 3.

Susan Speckert, legal counsel for the commission, said the changes should go into effect in “about four to six months,” dependent on how the required legal process continues to unfold.

The new regulations largely mirror uniform rules supported by a wide range of racing organizations and include reclassifying some therapeutic medications into different withdrawal-time windows. Race-day Lasix use remains unaffected.

Perhaps most notable among the affected medications is the bronchial dilator clenbuterol, which is currently legal to administer within three days of a race for both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. The new rule recommends a withdrawal guideline of 14 days.

Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the commission, presented an overview of the new rules to those on hand Wednesday, much of it from a national perspective. The states where uniformity already has been approved account for more than 60 percent of annual parimutuel handle in the United States, she said.

Commission member Dr. Jerry Yon told the commission that Drug Research Council members mostly agreed at their Dec. 3 meeting (where the vote was 4-2) that they are “satisfied that this is a good first attempt” at bringing Kentucky into the national fold. Lengthy arguments against some components of the changes were made to no avail at that meeting, including by horsemen’s representative Rick Hiles.

At the Wednesday meeting, commission member Tom Conway, a longtime horse owner, posed several questions about the Drug Research Council recommendations while cautioning against uniformity simply for uniformity’s sake. Chairman Bob Beck later countered that argument by saying the uniformity movement will help in fending off unwanted federal oversight.

After lengthy discussion, and by separate votes, it was determined the new medication rules also will apply to other racing breeds in competition in the state. Commission member Alan Leavitt said it was his “fervent hope” that breed-specific rules in Kentucky ultimately could be approved, with those pertaining to clenbuterol and corticosteroids exempted in regard to Standardbreds, largely because of the greater frequency with which they race. Leavitt said Kentucky rules not being breed-specific “would be very destructive” to the Standardbred industry in the state, but his position was denied by the vote.

– additional reporting by Matt Hegarty