09/08/2005 11:00PM

Letters to the editor


Trainer defends venue change, drug stance

In Stan Bergstein's Sept 8 column, "Boycott - one step backward," he wrote that I was sending my horses to Arlington Park to avoid the new drug policy instituted recently here in Kentucky. That is not true. If he had bothered to contact me first, I would have told him that I have been in favor of not administering race-day medication, other than Salix, for quite some time.

His column also stated that our new policy was the same as other racing jurisdictions. If that were true, why would I ship six hours to run my horses? Because Illinois has stated withdrawal times that protect the honest trainers such as myself. The problem I have with the Kentucky rule is that the penalty for an overage of many medicines that are necessary to treat medical problems such as illness and infection are so punitive that they would prevent the normal course of care that these horses require.

I don't think Mr. Bergstein or the Kentucky Horse Racing Association understand the difference between performance-enhancing drugs and therapeutic medications that are needed on a daily basis. The substance mentioned in Bergstein's column, clenbuterol, is used for the treatment of common lung ailments that racehorses are prone to developing. Is he suggesting that we stop treating lung ailments altogether for fear that a few particles could show in a blood test five days later?

There are no established residual levels in the new policy. The warnings that he mentions that are being offered by the racing association still would count as a "first offense," leaving those trainers exposed to the draconian penalties for a second, even minor, offense later. We need specific guidelines in order to conform to these new policies, not vague promises of "Don't worry, we'll go easy on you even though you have no good way to determine what you are doing wrong until it is too late!"

Walter Bindner
Goshen, Ky.

Period of transition can usher in a new era

I am writing to applaud the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority's imposition of new, more stringent race-day medication rules. It is also important to note that the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, in seeking injunctive relief from these new regulations, neither represents nor speaks for all Kentucky horse breeders and owners.

It is imperative that Kentucky racing adheres to and embraces these standards. In so doing, we deliver a superior product to race fans, we enhance the integrity of the sport we love, we level the playing field, and we move closer toward achieving uniformity in race-day medication rules nationwide.

It is my hope that the 60-day transitional period adopted by the racing authority ("Kentucky softens new rule," Sept. 8) will help ease horsemen into compliance with the new rules and regulations without undue hardship.

Pope McLean Jr., Crestwood Farm
Lexington, Ky.

New Kentucky policy needs modification

As an active member of the Kentucky racing community, I am disappointed that the presumably well-intentioned efforts of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority have created such a flawed and confrontational program with the new medication policy.

As a trainer, I thoroughly support the modification of the Kentucky medication rules that will virtually eliminate the use of race-day medication. This, however, should have been a straightforward change, with the institution of similar threshold levels used all over the country.

One of the examples of the flawed policy centers on the profound reclassification of the medications in terms of their potential to affect the outcome of a race. Instead of simply using the standard, well-researched, well-tested and internationally recognized guidelines put forth by the Racing Commissioners International, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority chose the create its own system that fails to pass even the common-sense test. (The RCI has five classifications of medications; the new Kentucky policy is condensed into three.)

In the new system created by the KHRA, the drugs diazepam (Valium, controlled by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration), caffeine (a stimulant), and clenbuterol are in the same category, and the penalty schedule the same.

How could the racing industry in Kentucky be regulated by an administration that believes that a trainer whose horse has Valium in its system during a race should be penalized in the same manner as a trainer whose horse has been treated with clenbuterol? Clenbuterol is an FDA-approved medication for horses that is used in almost every racing stable in the country to treat lung infections, allergies, and bleeders. Adding to the problem is that the racing authority has refused to provide written guidelines as to the proper withdrawal timeframe for any of the commonly used therapeutic medications.

My question for Gov. Fletcher and the KHRA and the Equine Drug Council is this: How could you possibly have enacted a policy so clearly flawed? Now, because of your impatience in improving the rules of racing here in Kentucky, you have polarized the racing community. Furthermore, you have put economic stress on legitimately confused horsemen, as well as Turfway Park.

This avoidable controversy has taken the spotlight away from the revolutionary safe racing surface that Turfway invested millions of dollars to install. It's time to turn the policy back to the racing authority so that it can correct its mistakes and bring up its grade. The current version simply doesn't pass.

Gregory J. Fox
Lexington Ky.

Wanted: Bold connections to challenge Lost in the Fog

In Andrew Beyer's Aug. 27 column about Lost in the Fog, "Proving what he can do - not what he can't," he noted that the Racing Form's Mike Watchmaker "only grudgingly puts Lost in the Fog on his list of top ten sprinters."

Beyer went on to quote from Watchmaker's July 20 column, "Hold off on Lost in the Fog's coronation," wherein Watchmaker wrote,

"I don't believe his record right now withstands real scrutiny."

Beyer at one point agrees with Watchmaker, calling the horses Lost in the Fog has beaten "a bunch of patsies."

Lost in the Fog may have been beating up on a bunch of patsies all year, but those patsies are all who have shown up to run against him. Apparently the connections of all of the "real" competition don't want any part of him.

Carson Horton
Portland, Ore.