03/20/2013 3:46PM

Maryland alters claiming rule, expands safety committee


In response to the spate of breakdowns at Laurel Park this winter, the Maryland Racing Commission on Wednesday adopted a new claiming rule while expanding the number of members on its Safety and Welfare Committee.

Meanwhile, Maryland continues to try and progress toward adopting a new medication policy that will be adopted by the majority of tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region and New York by the beginning of next year.

At its monthly meeting Wednesday, held at Laurel, the MRC adopted a rule that would not allow a horse to run back within 30 days of being claimed unless it ran back for a minimum 25-percent higher price than for which it was claimed. It’s a rule that is already in place at the New York Racing Association. It was uncertain when the rule would be implemented, but it was hoped that it could in place for the second half of the 36-day Pimlico meet, which runs from April 4 through June 8.

The commission also agreed to increase the number of members on its Safety and Welfare Committee from three to “six-to-10,” according to Michael Hopkins, the executive director of the MRC. The committee will now include more industry stakeholders, including representatives of the state’s horsemen’s group, the racetracks, and the breeders.

The MRC is also going to consider rules that would void a claim if a horse suffered a fatal breakdown on the track, but it was unclear what state’s model Maryland planned to follow. In New York, a rule implemented last October allows a claimant, within one hour of the race, to void the claim of a horse who had been vanned off the track.

At least 17 horses have been euthanized at Laurel since Jan. 1, and a recent report by the Safety and Welfare Committee did not pinpoint a prevailing factor as to what caused the unusually high number of incidents.

Meanwhile, the commission received information from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium regarding thresholds and withdrawal times for five therapeutic drugs that are part of 24 for which uniform medication policies will be prescribed. It is hoped that a uniform medication policy for the region could be in place by Jan. 1, 2014.

Two significant hurdles remain that need to be cleared before Maryland can adopt a new medication policy.

First, Maryland must identify an accredited laboratory to conduct post-race tests. Second, while Maryland’s Thoroughbred horsemen are on board with eliminating adjunct bleeder medication that is currently given along with Lasix, the state’s Standardbred horsemen have yet to comply.

“We’re going to continue to have discussions with them and work on that,” Hopkins said. “For the labs, we’re trying to go through a process to work on accrediting our current lab or go outside and contract out for it. It’s going to take a little time to figure out which way to go.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the terms and implementation time of a rule in New York State. The New York rule allows a claim to be voided within one hour of a race from which a claimed horse is vanned off, not euthanized within a hour after the race. The rule was implemented in October, not December.