10/11/2012 5:02PM

New York board passes rule changes in response to breakdown study


The New York State Racing and Wagering Board passed seven rule changes Thursday based on the recommendations of a task force that studied a spike in breakdowns at Aqueduct racetrack last winter.

Passed unanimously by the commission on an emergency basis, the rules seek to tighten limits on several controversial medications, including the bronchial dilator clenbuterol and the corticosteroid methylprednisolone. The rules will also require trainers to maintain additional records on treatments that are administered to their horses.

John Sabini, the chairman of the board, said the new rules were based entirely on the recommendations made by the task force, which released its report two weeks ago. The report did not identify one single factor responsible for the spike in breakdowns but said that some of the 21 breakdowns that occurred during the Aqueduct winter meet could have been prevented with better practices.

“We agree with the task force that a number of factors contributed,” Sabini said.

Under the new regulations, clenbuterol will not be allowed to be administered to a horse within 21 days of a race, a dramatic increase in the number of days over the previous four-day restriction. The task force said that it found many trainers were administering the drug to horses daily, likely to exploit the drug’s ability to build muscle mass when used regularly.

The board also passed new restrictions on corticosteroids – anti-inflammatory drugs that are frequently injected into joints. Veterinarians will be unable to administer corticosteroids in any manner within five days of a race, and joint injections of corticosteroids will be prohibited within seven days of a race.

In addition, the board passed a rule restricting the administration of a specific corticosteroid, methylprednisolone acetate, within 15 days of a race. Scientific studies of methylprednisolone have demonstrated that the drug can have a degradative effect on joint tissue, unlike other corticosteroids.

Records of corticosteroid administrations will have to be submitted to the board within 48 hours of administration, and those records will be made available to all veterinarians performing pre-race examinations of horses. The task force said that the use of corticosteroids had the potential to complicate the ability of veterinarians to detect soundness problems in horses during pre-race exams.

The trainer of a claimed horse will now be required to provide the new owner of the horse with the records of any corticosteroid administration during the previous 30 days. The rule seeks to discourage new owners of claimed horses from administering redundant doses of corticosteroids.

The new owners of claimed horses will now be able to void the claim within one hour of a race’s becoming official if the horse is vanned off the track. All of the rules will go into effect for all New York Thoroughbred tracks Dec. 12, with the exception of the rule allowing owners to void claims. That rule will go into effect Oct. 19.

“We’ll discuss with NYRA how to put these procedures in place as fast as possible,” Sabini said, referring to the New York Racing Association, which operates Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. The regulations will also apply to Finger Lakes racetrack.

Before passing the regulations, Sabini said the board expected soon to hire an equine medical director to establish and enforce medication policies, also as the task force recommended. The California Horse Racing Board was the first racing commission to establish a position for an equine medical director, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission soon after followed suit.