01/18/2005 1:00AM

NYRA to test for shakes and cut off rebate shops


The New York Racing Association announced Tuesday that it will begin testing horses for banned substances known as milkshakes beginning in February and that it will cut off rebate shops named last week in a federal indictment that charged 17 people in connection with an illegal gambling operation.

Included in the indictment was an allegation that New York trainer Greg Martin administered a milkshake to a horse on Dec. 18, 2003, at Aqueduct. Martin has been ejected from NYRA's grounds.

The testing program will subject any second offender to ejection from the track, said NYRA's chief executive officer, Charlie Hayward. On first offense, a trainer whose horse tests positive will be required to pay the costs for NYRA to provide around-the-clock security at the trainer's barn.

"We're not getting into third or fourth violations here," Hayward said. "On first offense, you pay for security. Second offense, you pay for the horse trailer."

Milkshakes are cocktails of sodium bicarbonate, sugar, and electrolytes that are typically pumped into a horse's stomach using a tube down the nose. The mixtures are believed to enhance performance by preventing the buildup in muscles of lactic acid, a chemical that leads to fatigue.

NYRA will use a test that measures the carbon-dioxide level in a horse's blood approximately one hour after the horse has raced. The test is already in use in New Jersey and is expected to be approved this week in California.

Also, NYRA announced that it had notified three rebate shops mentioned in the indictment that their contracts with the association would be terminated Jan. 24. Although the three shops were named in the indictment, none was charged with a crime. The three shops are Euro Off-Track on the Isle of Man, International Racing Group in Curacao, and the Tonkawa Indian Reservation in Oklahoma. NYRA cut off a fourth rebate shop that was not named in the indictment: Elite Turf Club, also in Curacao.

Bill Nader, a NYRA senior vice president, said the shops accounted for $160 million in bets on NYRA's races in 2004, or about 6 percent of NYRA's $2.6 billion handle last year.

On Saturday, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association asked U.S. racetracks to review their relationships with rebate shops. Officials at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, owner and operator of The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, have already said they would cut off the shops named in the indictment. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Churchill Downs said the company, which owns six racetracks, would respond to the NTRA statement on Wednesday.