Updated on 03/13/2014 2:55PM

New York Gaming Commission to require prompt notice of horses being gelded at tracks


The New York Gaming Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a rule requiring horsemen to notify track personnel within 72 hours of a horse being gelded ontrack, and, following the meeting, the commission said it would require that the individual votes of stewards in cases of disqualifications be made public.

The rule requiring notification of a first-time gelding builds on an existing Jockey Club rule that requires horsemen to “promptly” report the information to the industry’s registry, which maintains records that are on file in racing offices. New York Gaming Commission officials said similar rules had been put in place in Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma and that the rule would “protect New York horseplayers.”

Although no specific penalties are attached to violations of the regulation, the New York rule would require trainers to notify the racing secretary at the track where the procedure is performed within 72 hours of the operation. If the procedure is performed offtrack, the rule requires the owner or trainer of the horse “to report the alteration at or before the time the horse is entered to race.” Many horses are gelded to improve performance.

The requirement that the votes of stewards be made public was announced by the commission following the meeting, after a commissioner, John Crotty, raised concerns at the meeting about the public response to a disqualification at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22 that resulted in a carryover for the Rainbow 6, a jackpot-style bet that pays out if there is only one winning ticket. The disqualification became an item of discussion on the Internet, with many alleging that track stewards made their decision to ensure a carryover, even as many horse racing observers maintained that the decision was warranted.

In addition to directing stewards to make their votes public, the commission said it would act to ensure “there is no communication permitted between the stewards and jockeys, trainers, agents, or racetrack management while an inquiry or objection is being determined, unless initiated by the stewards.” That directive is already a requirement for stewards during adjudications. The commission said that if the stewards make any contacts during their deliberations, “there should be a publicly available record of all such contacts made.”

Along the same lines, the commission said it would develop a database containing the video records of inquiries and objections, along with the written rulings by stewards.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved a rule for Standardbreds allowing for the administration of the bronchodilator clenbuterol up to 96 hours before a race, even though rules prohibit the administration of the drug within 14 days of a race for Thoroughbreds. The 96-hour rule was pushed by Standardbred interests who argued that a 14-day rule would act as a de facto ban on the drug.

Racing commissions in the United States have sought to tighten clenbuterol rules over the past several years because of the drug’s potential to build muscle mass when used regularly. Dr. Scott Palmer, the gambling commission’s equine medical director, said at the commission meeting that the 96-hour rule will still prevent Standardbred horsemen from using the drug for this so-called “repartitioning effect” because most harness horses run once per week, and because any Standardbred horse who has not raced for 30 days will be prohibited from being administered the drug within 14 days prior to its first race back.

The split rule “will have exactly the same effect in both breeds,” Palmer told the commission.

The approval of a split rule for clenbuterol for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds has been a source of controversy in racing because of potential legal implications and the rift it has exposed between the two breeds.

In its approval of the rule change, the commission also amended an existing rule regarding a list of 24 approved medications for Thoroughbred racing by electing to omit references to zero-tolerance levels for drugs that are not on the approved list.

Palmer said the commission wanted to omit the language because the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International had begun to recommend that state racing commissions avoid the “zero tolerance” term. The RMTC and RCI have led the effort to devise the list of approved drugs as part of a larger goal of aligning medication rules among states.

The term “zero tolerance” is generally avoided by many racing chemists and regulators because of the implication that trace amounts of any prohibited substance found in a post-race sample will always be deemed a positive test. In reality, testing laboratories in all sports do not test for many substances below certain levels of detection to avoid calling positives for substances at extremely low concentrations, especially for known environmental contaminants like cocaine or easy-to-detect but short-acting drugs like the painkiller naproxen.

Dr. Dionne Benson, executive director of the RMTC, said prior to the gambling commission meeting that the RMTC and RCI recently decided to back away from the notion that there would be “zero tolerance” for any substance not on the approved list because of the false impression among some horsemen that trace amounts of any other drug would result in a violation.

“We’re encouraging the commissions to tell their laboratories that if they already have testing thresholds in place, they do not need to phase them out,” Benson said.

Palmer told commissioners that it is implausible to suggest that racing laboratories could devise threshold levels for “literally thousands” of drugs available to horsemen due to funding and manpower limitations common to any sport. He also noted that the ARCI has identified 64 drugs not on the list that have therapeutic uses in horses.

“It’s not that these medications can’t be used,” Palmer said. “They just shouldn’t be used in close proximity to a race.”

Finally, the commission adopted a rule that will prohibit a horse from racing or breezing within 10 days of being treated with shock-wave therapy or “similar treatments.” An identical rule has been in place at the New York Racing Association under its house rules for several years.