The Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America (TRA) issued a statement April 15 stating it supports the concept of eliminating any possible medication influence on horses on race day within the next five years, but urged the process be “realistic" and "practical.”
“This is a proposal that should merit the active participation of every facet of the industry in resolving an issue of great interest to racing fans and the general public,” said Chris McErlean, president of the TRA. “As continued revision of equine medication rules for racing seems probable, it would be best for the industry to manage these changes by having them addressed cooperatively in a realistic and practical way.”
Last month, the outgoing Association of Racing Commissioners International chairman Dan Hartman said “a five-year phase-out is reasonable to bring North American racing policies in line with what is going on in other parts of the world like Europe and Hong Kong.” He added the phased approach would give horsemen and owners sufficient time to adjust to the change. The phase-out is also supported by the new RCI chairman Willie Koester, chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission.
While the TRA supports the goal of eliminating race-day medication, the issue is in a gray area until RCI members take concrete action.
“Right now it is not an RCI position. It is a comment by the outgoing chairman,” said Chris Scherf, TRA’s executive vice president. “If they want to put that policy in place, we want to be supportive and part of the process. It is something the racetracks are very concerned about. We share their concern.”
Scherf said more information about the feasibility of the five-year phase out will be a bit clearer after the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium board meets the week of April 18. Scherf is vice chairman of the RMTC board.
“I’ll know a lot more after the RMTC meets and we have more input from people that are experts,” he said.
Regarding whether a five-year phase out is practical, Scherf said he wouldn’t think the window should be stretched out much more.
“Longer than that and you are in the far distance future. If you are going to do it, you are going to want to do it as soon as possible and as practical as possible,” he said.
The TRA currently has 48 member associations conducting racing at 41 racetracks in the United States and Canada.
Both The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association have come out in favor of the proposed elimination of all race-day medication. The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which also has representation on the RMTC and is the largest horsemen’s organization in North America with 30 affiliates, said it won’t have comments on the RCI push for a ban until at least April 18, when the National Thoroughbred Racing Association board of directors meets again to discuss medication in racing.