Kentucky Horse Racing Commission officials acknowledged concerns about aspects of the proposed out-of-competition testing of racehorses and pledged Aug. 25 to consider the input before the regulations are approved.
Attendees of a second “town hall” meeting to discuss the plan expressed support for out-of-competition testing—primarily for blood-doping agents—in Kentucky. But the devil is in the details and the rush to get emergency regulations in place for the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs.
“This is a draft,” KHRC assistant general counsel Tim West told horsemen and veterinarians during the meeting at the Keeneland track kitchen. “All of this is still subject to discussion.”
The discussion was similar to that of an Aug. 24 KHRC town hall meeting at Churchill. A major concern is the possible penalizing of innocent parties under the draft regulations.
Kentucky Thoroughbred Association executive director David Switzer asked why a trainer would be suspended if he or she had no problem with a horse being tested, but the owner of the horse refused. He said Kentucky-based trainers could end up losing all their owners because one owner refused a test.
A refusal would bring a one-year suspension for the horse in question, up to a $50,000 fine for the owner and trainer, and license suspension for up to 10 years for the owner and trainer.
“Legally, can you justify this?” asked Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
“Certainly this is something that is going to get a lot of discussion,” West said, noting the KHRC rules committee will meet Aug. 26 to further examine the regulation. “It needs some more thought and some more work. Alternatives will be discussed, and hopefully decisions will be made.”
Horsemen’s representatives again suggested the emergency rules be put in place for Breeders’ Cup only. West said there would be time to make changes before the actual regulations are adopted, but noted the emergency regulation would be on the books for six months.
Trainer John Ward Jr., a member of the KHRC, said he would like clarification of the trainer responsibility rule, which would apply to out-of-competition testing. Ward said there are many cases in which trainers are relieved of their responsibilities by owners, and there can be gaps between one trainer’s firing and the hiring of another.
Ward asked how regulators would prove culpability in the case of an offense.
“Once a horse leaves the custody of a trainer, the horse is in limbo,” Ward said. “We can’t lock into something that puts us in jeopardy.”
The regulations will pertain to all breeds that race in Kentucky. KHRC member Alan Leavitt, a prominent owner-breeder of Standardbreds, said use of blood-doping agents such as erythropoietin (EPO) “is well on its way to destroying (harness racing).”
Leavitt alleged a trainer with a high winning percentage is responsible for driving two major owners out of the Standardbred business. He focused his comments on trainers.
“The owner should not be the issue here,” Leavitt said. “People are saying (the proposed penalties) would be the death penalty. That’s what we want it to be. There are no varying degrees of pregnancy.”
It seems unlikely anything radical will be included in the regulations given the fact they will have to go through the normal hearing and legislative process even after the emergency rules are adopted. West noted there are provisions for “mitigating circumstances,” meaning actual penalties could be substantially less than those listed in the regulations.