The Ohio State Racing Commission tightened its medication rules Jan. 20 to greatly reflect the model rules offered by the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. In another change, money will be deducted from each purse to defray all or part of the cost to test blood and urine samples.
The rules include restrictions on use of non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs and allow horsemen the option of using amicar--a bleeder medication--in conjunction with Salix. In several Mid-Atlantic jurisdictions, amicar and other adjunct bleeder medications are used in conjunction with Salix, the bleeder medication formerly known as Lasix.
The national consortium thus far has agreed only Salix should be permitted on race day. It hasn't taken a position on adjunct bleeder medications pending further research.
The model rules also say only one NSAID can be used 24 hours out, and thresholds have been set for other NSAIDs at 48 hours. In Ohio, horsemen have had the option of using one of five NSAIDs; that will change to one of three effective Feb. 1.
"This uniformity has long been needed," said Norm Barron, chairman of the racing commission and its medication committee. "With the exception of amicar, which apparently will be part of the model rules, we are 100% in compliance with the national model rules. I believe we're one of the first states to adopt them."
Dan Theno, executive director of the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the organization made its case before the commission at the Jan. 20 meeting. The HBPA has expressed concerns over the impact the medication restrictions could have on racehorses.
"We weren't in favor of further restrictions on therapeutic medications," Theno said. "We think some horses won't be in condition to run, and if that occurs, we'll have shorter fields, and that would adversely impact handle."
Earlier, Theno said horsemen are concerned the 48-hour rule could hinder the efficacy of some therapeutic substances.
The Ohio State Racing Commission on July 1 will lose a portion of its state funding. It plans to eliminate 14 positions through layoffs or early retirements. The financial crunch led to purse deductions to help support drug testing.
Theno said that's good and bad news for Thoroughbred horsemen. The Thoroughbred industry traditionally pays about 53% of the drug-testing cost in Ohio, yet generates only 25% of the tests. The Standardbred industry has paid about 47% of the cost but has generated 75% of the tests.
"By charging the cost back to purse accounts, you get rid of that problem," Theno said. "That's a good thing. But the bad thing is a few dollars' reduction in everybody's purses."
Barron said the decision to use purse contributions to help pay for testing wasn't an easy one, even though on average only about $35-$40 would be deducted from each purse for initial screening. The first six finishers in Ohio receive purse money.
"There were concerns," Barron said. "The first question was, 'Why us?' Quite frankly, when we needed money before--this is a continuing problem for us--the first attempt to raise additional funds was made through an increase in takeout. Now, we're asking the horsemen. I said to the (racetracks operators), 'Guess who's next?' "
The state's equine drug testing is performed by Ohio State University. The commission, however, is seeking bids on the contract, which ends June 30. Barron said testing costs the racing industry about $1.4 million a year.