09/24/2002 12:00AM

New Kentucky drug rules

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky Racing Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to reduce the number of drugs allowed on race day from 16 to five, and also approved new guidelines that permit the usage of mouthwashes before a race as long as they do not contain banned substances.

The new policy will be in place when the Keeneland fall meet begins Oct. 4. Kentucky has been under intense pressure from the industry to alter its drug rules, which long have been the most liberal in North America.

"This surely will be the most important issue of my tenure," commission chairman Frank Shoop said during a 90-minute meeting held at the Red Mile harness track. "We believe this sets the stage for Kentucky becoming a model for the nation on this very important issue."

While the new policy limits horsemen to five medications on race day, it still gives trainers and veterinarians wide latitude in determining which medications can be used. The new policy also allows an undetermined number of drugs to be present in postrace blood and urine samples as long as they do not exceed certain threshold levels that are still to be decided.

The new policy allows trainers to administer, alone or in combination, no more than two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, namely Bute, banamine, and one of two other similar medications; one steroidal anti-inflammatory medication from a list of four; and two anti-bleeding medications, the diuretic furosemide (Lasix) and aminocaproic acid, a blood-clotting agent commonly known as Amicar. Previous rules allowed for usage of any or all of 16 different drugs on race day.

The commission also eliminated the four-hour rule on administering mouthwashes that do not contain regulated substances. The subject arose because of the controversy involving Tenpins, who was scratched from the Sept. 14 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park after he was treated with a mouthwash known as Air Power less than four hours before the race. Over-the-counter equine mouthwashes do not contain illegal substances and long have been commonly used by trainers.

In other business, the commission:

* Voted to provide $7,500 to Dr. Walter Hyde of Iowa State University for continuing research into formulating a test for erythropoitin (EPO), a controversial hormone that can enhance a horse's oxygen-carrying capacity.

* Heard lengthy testimony from retired Louisville attorney Tim McCall and several other men associated with a proposed $20 million Quarter Horse track in Williamsburg, Ky. After about an hour of discussion, McCall asked the commission to vote on a track license for Southern Bluegrass Racing Inc., but the matter was tabled until an Oct. 28 commission meeting.

* Requested that Churchill Downs give a definitive answer by the next commission meeting on whether the track will use an also-eligibles list beyond the 20-horse limit for the 2003 Kentucky Derby. Churchill senior vice president Alex Waldrop told the commission that formation of such a list would be "possible, but the question we continue to have is whether it would be advisable."

* Approved a hearing officer's recommendation that owner Dr. Joseph Kutz be fined $25,000 and suspended 30 days, effective Wednesday, because Kutz treated one of his horses with the anti-depressant Prozac without the knowledge of his trainer, William Deaton. The fine is believed to be the largest in state racing history.

* Approved a request by Keeneland to run seven live races on Breeders' Cup day, Oct. 26. In previous years, Keeneland had run four live races before the Breeders' Cup, but the track will run three additional races this year between Breeders' Cup simulcasts.

* Approved a request by Churchill Downs to conduct racing on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, instead of the following day, a regularly scheduled Tuesday program.

- additional reporting by Matt Hegarty