09/14/2004 11:00PM

Next step on milkshake ban

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POMONA, Calif. - California racing regulators on Wednesday began the process to institute a rule and a test specifically intended to stop the use of alkalizing agents, more commonly known as "milkshakes."

At the monthly California Horse Racing Board meeting at the Hinds Sales Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Fair, board officials unanimously voted to post the rule for the standard 45-day notice. Since the board meets monthly, the earliest the rule could be passed is at its November meeting.

There is a high degree of interest in adding the rule. An informal survey has been conducted in recent months in which horses were tested for milkshakes. But no penalties could be enacted because no rule specifically bars the practice. Dr. Ron Jensen, the equine medical director for the board, testified on Wednesday that the results of the survey "indicate some horses have been administered alkalizing substances in excessive amounts."

Jensen said the survey was conducted at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Fairplex Park, Golden Gate, and Bay Meadows.

Roger Licht, the board's vice chairman, said he wanted the penalty for such an infraction to be equivalent to that for a Class 3 medication violation, which would result in the loss of purse money.

"That would give it some teeth," Licht said.

Racetrack executives and representatives of both the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the California Thoroughbred Trainers all spoke in favor of adopting the new rule.

"It's important that we move forward as quickly as possible," said Craig Fravel, the president of Del Mar.

In another attempt to boost public confidence, the board requested that Hollywood Park, during its fall meeting that begins Nov. 3, provide a security guard at the stall of every horse entered in any graded stakes race.

"If that's the board's desire, that's what we'll do," said Eual Wyatt Jr., the general manager of Hollywood Park.

The board also was expected to finalize the dates for the Southern California calendar for 2005, but the protracted process will be dragged out for at least another month. After an hour of discussion, testimony, and alternate proposals, the board failed to agree on specific dates for Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Fairplex, and Santa Anita, and tabled the matter until next month.

The key sticking points include Del Mar's summer dates. Del Mar does not want to race later than the Wednesday following Labor Day, believing that the post-Labor Day dates are not as lucrative for the resort track. In addition, if Del Mar has a meet that ends Sept. 14 as opposed to Sept. 7, that would push back the start of Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, which could affect the time between Oak Tree's Breeders' Cup-related prep races and the Breeders' Cup itself.

One of the two proposals discussed on Wednesday would have Santa Anita's winter meeting beginning this year on Dec. 29, three days later than its traditional opening. Hollywood Park's fall meeting is scheduled to close on Dec. 20.

"I'd hate to walk away from opening Santa Anita on Dec. 26," said John Harris, the board's chairman.