02/27/2013 7:02PM

Uniform drug rules seen as near in Eastern states


NEW YORK - When the New York Racing Association put in place stricter medication guidelines last December, it effectively closed the door on horses shipping to Aqueduct from nearby states that had more lenient policies.

It appears, however, that a uniform medication policy could be in place later this year that would bring several states on the East Coast and/or Mid-Atlantic region in line with NYRA's regulations, essentially reopening the door to New York for shippers.

States including Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Jersey - as well as New York - are close to adopting uniform rules on 24 drugs, according to Alan Foreman, chairman and CEO of the Maryland-based Thoroughbred Horseman's Association.

"I've just gotten more commitments this afternoon," Foreman said Wednesday after he attended the New York Racing Association Reorganization Board meeting in midtown Manhattan. "I'm hoping we will have an announcement next week."

Foreman said the uniform rules would address 24 medications "that are routinely used in racing." Everything else, Foreman said, "will be prohibited."

Last December, NYRA instituted new withdrawal times for the administration of corticosteroids as well as clenbuterol that forced trainers to administer these medications to horses further out from race day than what had been previously allowed. Essentially, it dramatically cut the number of shippers who came from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other states for the winter meet. NYRA estimated shippers to Aqueduct are down about 80 percent from last year and said field size this winter is down one horse per race.

"We are an island in some of our medication standards," said trainer Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horseman's Association. "The best solution is not to remain an island."

Meetings were held in mid-February including horsemen's groups from multiple states to formulate a uniform medication policy.
Foreman said most of the rules will follow what the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety recommended last year. That Task Force, which included Foreman, Dr. Scott Palmer, Dr. Mary Scollay, and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, was put together by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo following 21 equine fatalities during Aqueduct's 2011-12 inner track meet.

"We're going to have to educate the horsemen, because it's going to require a change in the way they've been training horses," Foreman said. "Big shift. We're already doing it here in New York . . . what we're trying to do is get everybody to embrace these new corticosteroid guidelines.

"There's a mandatory education period that's going to be required," Foreman added. "We believe when we get compliance we're going to make it a lot safer for these horses."

Foreman said the new policy will also carry with it penalty guidelines.

"Most of our violations are in the therapeutic area but the public doesn't differentiate from the doping and the therapeutics," Foreman said. "We are working on penalty guidelines that . . . if you have multiple infractions we will be able to identify what we call the repeat or multiple offenders and they will get an additional penalty."