Two panels of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission have begun the lengthy—and potentially contentious—process of reviewing and revising the state’s medication regulations.
Included in the reviews by the KHRC Rules Committee and the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council are medications, testing procedures, and prohibited practices; disciplinary measures and penalties; and drug and medication classification schedules and withdrawal guidelines.
The work by the panels comes at a time when the Association of Racing Commissioners International has recommended that furosemide—the anti-bleeder medication commonly marketed under the name Salix (formerly Lasix)—be prohibited for race-day use, and recent recommendations from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium relating to race-day medications. During an Aug. 2 meeting, Dr. Jerry Yon, who chairs the drug council, said the process would be thorough.
Dr. Mary Scollay, the KHRC equine medical director, said that during the recent international medication summit she was surprised “at how strong the consensus was within the room to move away from use of furosemide on race day. It did feel a little bit to me like a summer camp romance. It was not that difficult to achieve consensus within the room, but stepping outside the room I think it will be a much more complex problem.
“I don’t believe there any easy answers. I think the industry recognizes a lot of thinking and deliberating needs to be done yet.”
Among the options considered at the medication summit and discussed by the drug council were whether a furosemide race-day ban would be phased in for special events, such as the Breeders’ Cup, or would be implemented effective with the racing age of certain foal crops.
The drug council discussed how to handle the treatment of horses that normally race on Salix if they were to participate in a special racing event that had imposed a ban on the bleeder medication. For example, if the Breeders’ Cup World Championships were to conduct its major year-end championship races with a no-furosemide rule, how would the KHRC rules affect horses normally competing with Salix after they competed in a non-Salix event?
Susan Speckert, general counsel for the racing commission, noted that it is “easy to go off Salix but hard to get back on.” She said once a horse competes without Salix, there are various conditions that must be met before the horse is allowed to use the anti-bleeder medication again in a race, including having to wait 60 days. She said the regulations would have to be written to provide more flexibility for such horses.
The drug council also discussed whether rules should be written that would require Salix to be administered by commission veterinarians rather than a trainer’s private veterinarian, and how that procedure would be carried out.
The drug council was openly divided on the possible prohibition of adjunct bleeder medications, with some members advocating no change in current regulations and others favoring a ban. In the end, council members agreed to gauge the opinions of horsemen on the subject before considering changes to the rules.
Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said the National HBPA has decided it will not oppose efforts to prohibit adjunct bleeder medications, but the Kentucky division was still considering the matter.
Scollay said there was general consensus at the drug summit on a prohibition of adjunct bleeder medications. “At the end of the day it was quite clear there is no scientific support for the use of any of the adjunct bleeder” medications," she said.
In other business, some recommendations involving under-the-radar-screen medications were discussed.
Dr. Andy Roberts, an equine veterinarian, said he was concerned about the inclusion of Levasmisole on the list of Class A substances, the category under which the most onerous medications are listed and which have the stiffest penalties. Roberts said the drug is commonly used for therapeutic purposes in horses, though is not administered immediately prior to a horse competing. He also said it had previously been an effective de-wormer in horses and could likely be used again for that purpose.
“This drug is commonly used by me in a very ethical fashion, and I am leery of making that a Class A (drug),” Roberts said.
Once the drug council and rules committee have jointly compiled recommendations, public hearings will be heard before the regulations go forward for additional regulatory review and approval.