08/31/2005 11:00PM

Ky. drug hearing extended

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FRANKFORT, Ky. - A U.S. Circuit Court judge on Thursday extended by one day a hearing sought by Kentucky horsemen to keep the state from enforcing new race-day medication rules after testimony on Thursday ran much longer than anticipated by either side.

After hearing 4 1/2 hours of testimony on Thursday, the judge, Roger Crittenden of the Franklin County Circuit Court, scheduled the two sides to appear again on Friday at 1 p.m. Lawyers for the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said at the hearing on Thursday that they had three more witnesses they wanted to call.

The KHBPA sued the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority last week in order to seek a preliminary injunction that would prohibit the state from enforcing stricter race-day medication rules as of Sept. 7, the beginning of the Turfway Park meet. The rules were approved two weeks ago by Gov. Ernie Fletcher on an emergency basis.

At the start of the hearing on Thursday, the KHBPA was joined in its lawsuit by a group of 15 racetrack veterinarians in the state who were represented by Robert Stallings. On the other side, the authority's position was joined by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, both represented by one lawyer, Robert Watt.

The hearing had been expected to wrap up by 2 p.m., when the next case was listed on the docket. However, attorneys for several of the groups involved were all allowed to cross-examine witnesses, extending the time that witnesses spent on the stand.

Only three witnesses were called on Thursday: Marty Maline, the executive director of the KHBPA; Jim Gallagher, the executive director of the authority; and Dr. Robert Copelan, a longtime racetrack vet.

The lawyer for the KHBPA, Robert Decker, attempted to show that Fletcher's approval did not meet criteria fitting an emergency. Decker was joined by Stallings, who said the implementation of the rules could cause irreparable harm to racetrack practitioners who were confused about how the rule would affect their treatment of horses.

Copelan, the racetrack vet, said he would not be able to treat horses in Kentucky if the new rules were to go into effect on Sept. 7. He said the rules should only be implemented after veterinarians had a chance to voice their concerns during the 60-day public comment period preceding any final approval through legislative channels, a process that started with the approval of the rules by the authority on Aug. 15.

"All I'm interested in is having 60 days to talk this over," Copelan said.

Gallagher defended Fletcher's decision to sign the rules as an emergency regulation, saying that Kentucky's adoption would contribute to a national effort to approve uniform race-day medication rules. Gallagher also said that the state's reputation as being on the "leading edge" of the racing industry was suffering because of its current medication policy, which is the most liberal in the country.