The American Graded Stakes Committee, which is administered by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, will implement its plan of stringent drug testing for all graded stakes beginning in July 2004. The protocol will require laboratories to perform tests for over 140 parent drugs and their metabolites for all graded stakes. The number of horses tested will remain unchanged from current state rules and the determination when to initiate administrative action will be left to the state racing commissions. Performing the protocol on graded stake samples will be a condition of grade eligibility.The decision for a July 2004 launch came as the result of a pilot program conducted at the Belmont Fall, Keeneland Fall, and Oak Tree race meetings. Certain scientific and logistical issues were identified and are being addressed with the assistance of racing chemists from the Interstate Drug Testing Alliance and Testing Integrity Program and state regulators, according to Steven Duncker, chairman of the committee. "The goals of the protocol are to ensure the integrity of the committee's grades by requiring more extensive testing," Duncker said. "By addressing these issues with the racing chemists and regulators at this point in time and not rushing to implement the protocol in its current form, the committee believes significant progress will be made toward achieving these goals. Although we anticipate implementing the protocol in July 2004, we will not implement it until we believe we have it right."