Following in the footsteps of sister track Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park announced that it expects to implement testing horses for "milkshaking," the force feeding of an alkalizing solution that typically contains bicarbonate, some time during its 2005 meet.
The policy was announced following a meeting of the board of directors of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association which, along with Gulfstream's president Scott Savin, identified the necessity for the testing.
"It is a perception issue where a lot of people think it's serious problem," said FHBPA president Linda Mills. "So we're looking at it as much of a research project as anything to determine if it is a problem or not."
Mills added that the Standardbred industry has post-race testing and it is her understanding that "the issue is no longer a problem" at Pompano Park, a nearby standardbred track.
Although the precise testing protocol has not yet been established, Mills and Savin expect that all horses in three randomly chosen races each day will be tested. Additionally, testing will be carried out on all runners in graded stakes races.
The anticipated cost of the testing, to be shared between Gulfstream and the FHBPA, is about $600 per day.
Since the effort is being carried undertaken outside of the state of Florida, which has instituted no regulation on milkshaking, penalties will be imposed by the track and have yet to be determined. However Savin expects the policy to closely mirror that at Santa Anita, which places any trainer whose horse tests positive for excess bicarbonate in their bloodstream under 45-day surveillance. Santa Anita and Gulfstream are both owned by Magna Entertainment.
Penalties for further infractions may include forfeiture of purses, prohibitions on entries and/or a ban from the track.
While no specific commencement date has been established, both Mills and Savin feel it is important to begin as soon as all protocols are in place, likely later this month. "One thing that has always been very important to Magna and to me is a level playing field for all horses," Savin said. "So we decided we wanted to implement this as soon as possible without rushing it."
Should the testing prove successful, it will likely become standard policy at all South Florida tracks. "I'm sure if it works the horsemen will approach us and we'll have to take a serious look at it here," said Calder president Ken Dunn.