01/20/2007 1:00AM

Sale houses to develop steroid policy

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton have taken the first step toward testing for the use of anabolic steroids at Thoroughbred auctions.

The companies jointly announced Friday that they have formed a committee to develop “a standardized

policy for all sale horses which will address testing procedures and guidelines for appropriate use” of anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids increasingly have been under scrutiny in both human sports and Thoroughbred racing. Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton are the first major United States auction houses to call for a policy.

“We both agree that the use of anabolic steroids in sale horses is an issue that needs to be addressed for the betterment of the entire Thoroughbred industry,” Keeneland president Nick Nicholson and Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson said in their joint statement. “This is a concern that impacts each and every one of us, and one that requires the scientific expertise of veterinary professionals.”

The momentum for restricting or banning anabolic steroids at racetracks has been gaining force in recent months. In December, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a national medication-reform group, called on the racing industry to ban anabolic steroids, a policy that would bring the United States in line with other racing nations that regard them as performance-enhancing substances; in the U.S., only Iowa restricts anabolic steroid use in races. Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton’s joint statement came one day after California Horse Racing Board officials met with trainers and veterinarians at Santa Anita Park to discuss possible restrictions on anabolic steroids.

Performance enhancement might be a concern at juvenile sales, where 2-year-olds are asked to breeze in fast times, but Boyd Browning, Fasig-Tipton’s chief operating officer, said that concern over anabolic steroids also includes yearling sales.

“I’ve probably had more feedback at the yearling sales than at the

2-year-old sales,” he said. “It’s been more on the consignor side from folks concerned that people were improperly using steroids to create an appearance. We’re going to look at it across the board.”

Steroids can be used to build muscle or encourage appetite, and some horsemen argue that they have legitimate uses. The question, Browning said, is at what point does a therapeutic substance become a tool for either performance or image enhancements?

“It’s an extraordinarily complex issue,” he said. “In most racing jurisdictions right now you are permitted to use anabolic steroids. We all think there’s a shift in that thought process. But the complexities come with determining withdrawal times, with threshold levels, with custody issues of horses and test samples, of ‘acceptable therapeutic use,’ and so forth. We wish we could say, ‘Here’s the

policy and we’re going to implement it next week.’ But we’re not there yet.”

The committee formed by Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton will

likely include veterinarians Dr. Stuart Brown, Dr. Scott Pierce, and Dr. Craig Van Balen, who have publicly endorsed the committee’s formation; representatives from the auction houses; and members of the Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association, whose president, Bayne Welker, also applauded the effort.

“The development of a policy is critical to promoting a sense of fairness and credibility among buyers, sellers, and racing fans,” Welker said.

The committee will also work with steroid experts such as Dr. Don Catlin, director of the U.S. Olympic drug-testing laboratory at the University of California at Los Angeles and the man tapped to develop racing’s Equine Drug Research Institute. The institute, established in 2006, is working to develop new tests for drugs that are currently all but undetectable, then distribute those tests to testing facilities around the nation.

Browning said that the committee expects to meet in the next 30 days but said: “We don’t know how long this will take. We’re going to go as quickly as we can while still making sure we get the best policy we can and the right answers.”

New policy at preferred session

The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s winter mixed sale sold 148 horses at its two consignor-preferred sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, yielding $4,714,500 in total receipts and an average price of $31,855. The median was $21,000.

The top-priced horse was the $260,000 mare Miz United States, who sold Thursday. Miz United States is in foal to Songandaprayer. Stonestreet Thoroughbreds purchased the mare from the Summerfield agency.

The four-day sale was still underway in Ocala, Fla., on Friday with the first of two open sessions. At

5 p.m., the day’s top price was $57,000 for Spencers Storm, in foal to Victory Gallop. Three Rose Stables sold the

6-year-old to Over The Top Farm.

For the first time, OBS instituted a minimum bid of $10,000 for horses entered in the consignor-preferred sessions, hoping to attract better horses. The commission for the consignor-preferred sessions is 5 percent of the horse’s sale price, and the minimum commission is $1,000.

“What had happened was that over time we were getting more and more horses in the consignor-preferred sessions that weren’t justifying the commission,” said OBS president Tom Ventura said. “We felt we had to do something but didn’t want to raise the minimum commission.”

The new policy slimmed down the catalog for the preferred session. Last year’s auction featured three consignor-preferred sessions that sold 533 horses, making year-to-year comparisons difficult. But Ventura said OBS would stick to the $10,000 minimum bid at its next auction to offer consignor-preferred sessions, the October mixed sale.

Judge denies Jackson’s motion

A California judge has denied winemaker and Thoroughbred owner Jess Jackson’s request for summary judgment in his lawsuit against a former bloodstock advisor he claims bilked him out of more than $8 million in at least 25 transactions for horses.

Jackson filed a motion for summary judgment in October in his suit against Emmanuel de Seroux and his Narvick International agency, alleging that de Seroux pocketed the difference between sellers’ prices for horses and the price he charged Jackson. But California Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton in San Diego denied the motion on Tuesday. Barton’s ruling noted, among other things, that the California statute under which Jackson has sued de Seroux “does not express an intent to regulate out-of-state transactions” and that it was questionable whether transactions for Jackson’s out-of-state purchases had occurred in California.

Jackson’s Lexington-based attorney, Richard Getty, said, “We filed a motion for summary judgment believing clearly, and we still do believe, that the California statute applies.”

Getty said Jackson hadn’t decided yet whether to file a writ with the California Court of Appeals, adding, “We’ll probably make that decision next week sometime. We think the evidence is clear that the statute applies and has been violated. We feel that, in front of a jury, they will agree with us and enter a substantial verdict in Mr. Jackson’s favor.”

* Fasig-Tipton has cataloged 301 horses – 205 colts and 96 fillies – to its March 6 Calder select juvenile sale in Miami. The auction’s two under-tack previews will take place on Feb. 25 and March 4.