A growing need for uniform medication rules around the world was underlined on Monday during the 31st Asian Racing Conference in Dubai by officials representing both racing jurisdictions and the International Racing Bureau.
Adrian Beaumont, IRB director of racecourse services, pointed out that "the explosion of racing carnivals and important meetings around the globe has raced ahead of government protocols."
After 24 years of working with the Newmarket-based IRB, Beaumont said that to make international racing and shipment of horses more efficient, "a level playing field in terms of medication" is required.
Beaumont’s comments echoed those made earlier in the day by Mark Player, Hong Kong Jockey Club manager of international races, sale and development, while speaking during the first business session.
Player said medication rules should be made uniform around the world if international racing series ultimately are to succeed and help the sport grow.
Differing medication rules have become a major issue this year, with horses being disqualified in major international group I races due to testing positive for medications not allowed in the jurisdiction in which they raced.
However, reaching a standardized status on medication could be difficult, Beaumont acknowledged.
"When we talk about medication, we’re really talking about America," he stated, referring to what he views as the world’s most liberal drug rules in the United States.
Differing levels of drug testing also are factors in the problems faced by international racing participants.For example, Beaumont noted that testing in Hong Kong is the most rigorous in the world and that horses pointed to races there will face different scrutiny than they would elsewhere.
One practical way to deal with differing testing standards is to conduct tests before horses are shipped to an international destination to determine if there could be any problems.
Another way is pre-race testing on the day of the race, Beaumont said. With those kinds of tests, racing could avoid embarrassing disqualifications following post-race positive tests.
In other discussion, Dr. Patricia Ellis, secretary to the International Movement of Horses Committee and veterinary advisor to the Australian Racing Board, said, in some cases, governments are restricting the growth of international racing through various rules and policies.
She urged that international standards be developed and that the IMHC work more closely with racing authorities as well as governments to eliminate the problems.
Standardizing quarantine rules around the world is another key to racing’s future as it moves from regional to global competition and vies against other sports for fans, wagering dollars and sponsorship support.
"We’re at a crossroads in many ways," said Player, of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. "We have to break down quarantine barriers."
Irish-based trainer Dermot Weld suggested that Australia, should change its quarantine rules, which basically require that horses be isolated for two weeks in Europe and then two in Australia, while in the United States, he added that "some facilities need to be dramatically improved."
Racing organizations in Europe, Asia, America and Australia should work to make their quarantine rules virtually the same, he said, thus easing the task faced by trainers in planning races as well as the transitions for horses.