Despite a final plea by a group of local horsemen, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority unanimously moved Feb. 22 to adopt the model race-day medication rules proposed by the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.
The model policy, which allows for use of Salix and one adjunct bleeder medication on race day, as well as a choice of one of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 24 hours before a race, will now move through the legislative process. If the KHRA opts to pursue an emergency rule, the model policy could be in place in about two months, KHRA executive director Jim Gallagher said.
The KHRA meeting was attended by more than 60 people, about half of whom are trainers or veterinarians. The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has lobbied to keep the current medication rules, which allow for use of multiple therapeutic medications on race day, intact.
The KHRA acted upon the recommendation of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council. The current medication policy was enacted by the old Kentucky Racing Commission but never went through the legislative process. Such internal policies are considered unenforceable according to statute.
KHRA chairman Bill Street noted the irony of the fact the actual regulation on the books is more extreme than the national model policy in that it allows only Salix, the bleeder medication formerly known as Lasix, on race day.
"The current legal rule under which we can practice goes back to a situation even more conservative than what has been recommended," Street said. "We've got a situation that needs to be addressed."
Comments from the floor were limited. Trainer Bob DeSensi, who made a presentation on behalf of the Kentucky HBPA, said the KHRA would be better served focusing on testing for "exotic" drugs and taking a stand against substances such as anabolic steroids. He said the health and welfare of the horse should be the only consideration.
"To change for change's sake will do more to harm the industry that a shot of Bute on race day will ever do," DeSensi said.
The Kentucky HBPA has taken the position that therapeutic medications should be used until scientific evidence suggests otherwise. That position is directly at odds with that of the national consortium, which believes medications shouldn't be used until scientific research says otherwise.
The consortium, in an apparent compromise, hasn't blackballed adjunct bleeder medications for race-day use even though research into their efficacy continues. One of three adjunct bleeder medications will be permitted on race day through at least 2006.
Dr. John Piehowicz, a racetrack veterinarian who practices at Turfway Park, advocated continued use of therapeutic medications for the health of the racehorse. He said he has administered about 20,000 shots of Banamine, which is an NSAID, over 10 years and has had only 16 breakdowns that led to euthanasia.
"Whose policy is really based on scientific evidence for the best interests of the horse?" Piehowicz asked the racing authority.
Trainer John Ward, a member of the drug council and the national consortium, urged the KHRA to adopt the model policy to create uniformity for trainers and the betting public.
"Our industry needs to become unified and increase integrity," Ward said.
Kentucky HBPA president Susan Bunning said she was disappointed the KHRA took action without first pursuing research on use of race-day therapeutic medications. She also said she was pleased with the large turnout of trainers and vets who support the current policy.
"I don't think that was recognized by the authority," Bunning said.
The KHRA also approved rules for "milkshake," or TCO2 testing. Like the model medication policy, the milkshake rules will go through the legislative approval process, but Keeneland already has indicated interest in starting some milkshake testing this spring.