The Association of Racing Commissioners International board of directors voted Oct. 22 to lower the threshold level for phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, from five micrograms per milliliter of plasma or serum to two micrograms.
Phenylbutazone, a pain reliever commonly referred to as bute, can be administered up to 24 hours before a race in most jurisdictions. RCI officials and others have said the lower level will improve the pre-race examination of racehorses.
The RCI board voted 16-0 in favor of lowering the threshold. Earlier in the week of Oct. 18, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium said it would devise a penalty schedule to go along with the change in the bute threshold.
RCI president Ed Martin said the organization will review current penalty guidelines—most jurisdictions levy a small fine for a bute overage—to address concerns about first-time violations under the new rules. Local horsemen’s groups will be consulted, and a “grace period” will be considered, he said.
The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Thoroughbred Owners of California, and California Thoroughbred Trainers opposed the threshold change. Some officials said they want more research performed before the change is made.
RCI said the lower threshold received formal support from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, The Jockey Club, The Jockeys’ Guild, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.