01/20/2006 12:00AM

N.Y. board to take over testing

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The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has passed an emergency regulation that will allow the board to collect prerace blood samples from horses in order to test for the use of alkalizing agents, a banned treatment commonly referred to as milkshaking, a board official said Friday.

The new rule was put in place almost a year after the New York Racing Association began testing for alkalizing agents under a house rule. According to the board's chairwoman, Cheryl Buley, the board needed test data on the prerace samples before it could issue a regulation and enforce penalties against trainers. The board was already taking blood samples from horses after a race to test for milkshaking.

"We're in the position now where we have the scientific data to prosecute a positive" based on a prerace sample, Buley said. Prerace collection of samples from horses at New York tracks will begin immediately on a random basis each day, Buley said Friday.

Milkshakes, which are combinations of sodium bicarbonates, sugar, and other substances, are believed to stave off fatigue in horses by inhibiting the buildup of lactic acid in muscles. Some drug-testing officials have said that testing of prerace samples is more accurate than postrace samples because of changes in a horse's body chemistry due to the strenuous exercise of a race. States that use postrace testing are required to wait a minimum of 90 minutes after a race before collecting a sample because of the effects of the exertion.

Last February, NYRA, the operator of New York's three biggest racetracks, began testing for milkshakes under a house rule while the racing board was formulating rules and testing procedures. NYRA also started a security barn program that requires horses to be isolated from private veterinarians and other backstretch personnel for six hours before a race.

Under the board's new rule, a positive will be called if a horse's blood sample registers a level of total carbon dioxide in the blood of 39 millimoles per liter or higher if the horse had also been administered Lasix, a diuretic that is used to treat bleeding. A horse that has not been administered Lasix cannot test higher than 37 millimoles per liter.

Any trainer whose horse tests positive will be suspended for 60 days and fined $1,000 for a first offense, according to the rule. A second positive will draw a 60-day suspension and a $2,500 fine, plus the trainer will be referred to the board for an additional suspension. For a third offense, a trainer will be fined $5,000 and immediately suspended 60 days, and will face at least an additional one-year suspension or the revocation of his or her trainer's license.