A model rule that aims to ensure horses on a veterinarian's list in one jurisdiction are unable to compete in another jurisdiction before being removed from the initial list by the official vet became reality April 20.
On Thursday, the Association of Racing Commissioners International Model Rules Committee unanimously recommended the rule that also adds protection for horses who have been off for 12 months or longer and for horses who have not made their first start by age 4. Later Thursday the full ARCI board followed the recommendation and approved the new model rule.
On April 19 the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium's Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee also advanced the rule, which was championed by The Jockey Club Safety Committee.
The ARCI adopts model rules and then encourages its members, state regulators throughout North America, to adopt them in order to promote uniformity.
Cathy O'Meara, industry initiatives coordinator for The Jockey Club, presented the rule recommendation to both ARCI committees. She noted that study of the Equine Injury Database revealed increased risk for horses who have been placed on the vet's list, a trend that suggests further scrutiny of such horses is needed.
"Reciprocation of the vet's list from state to state has been an issue for a multitude of reasons," O'Meara said, noting that different states may have different requirements to be removed from the vet's list. "One state may require that blood be pulled to come off the vet's list, while another may not require blood to be pulled."
To facilitate the rule, The Jockey Club subsidiary InCompass Solutions plans to enhance its software to notify racing jurisdictions when a horse on a vet's list in one jurisdiction is attempted to be entered in another.
Duncan Patterson, chairman of the Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee, relayed his group's approval of the rule to the Model Rules Committee.
"The purpose of this rule is that some states don't recognize the vet's list of another state," Patterson said, before talking about the added provisions on horses who haven't raced by age 4 or who have not raced in a year. "Both of those situations are red flags. I believe the health and welfare of the horse overrides all other concerns."
Some of those concerns were raised by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. The organization said it approved the main parts of the rule, but had concerns about language that requires a horse to spend at least seven days on the vet's list and calls for sanctions similar to penalties assigned for a post-race positive, should a horse needing to work to come off the list fail a drug test.
Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler, speaking on behalf of the National HBPA, raised those concerns, noting that a horse who suffers a cut in the starting gate and is scratched will be placed on the vet's list but could be ready the next day after receiving stitches. He also said penalties for failing a drug test after a breeze should be less severe than failing a post-race test, because the betting public doesn't have an interest in the morning work.
Minnesota Racing Commission equine medical director Lynn Hovda noted that after debating a lot of timeframes, the seven days was settled upon. She said that even to have stitches, a horse likely will receive some painkiller and that a cut head also could include some level of concussion that, in general, a few more days off would help.
Hovda said tough sanctions are needed to deter horsemen from working horses on painkillers to get the horse off the vet's list. She said she's seen unfortunate instances where horses were able to breeze well but when their blood was tested, it showed they'd been given extremely high levels of phenylbutazone or banamine.
New York equine medical director Scott Palmer spoke in favor of the provisions for 4-year-old first-time starters and horses who have been off for a year. He said both of the provisions came with review of the Equine Injury Database, which showed an increased risk for horses in both situations.
After listening to the horsemen's concerns, RMTC Model Rules Committee member and Arkansas racing commissioner Mark Lamberth encouraged the committee to approve the rule.
"If we're going to err, lets err on the side of caution for the horse," Lamberth said. "Let's do something positive and move forward."
The ARCI Rules Committee took no action on trainer sanctions for failed out-of-competition tests. More time for public comment and industry review will be provided before that rule is considered by the committee.
A pair of proposed changes to the current model rule on riding crop use, one from The Jockey Club Safety Committee and one from the Jockeys' Guild, was considered by the committee, which ultimately didn't recommend either. Instead the committee formed an ad hoc subcommittee to review its current rule, as well as the two proposals.
The Jockey Club proposal would add a penalty structure that calls for increased sanctions for repeat offenders of the riding crop rule. Like California, it would require a jockey who has hit a horse three times wait at least two strides to give a horse time to respond.
The Jockeys' Guild proposal called for just one stride of reaction time from the horse and would allow the rider to decide the appropriate amount of whip use in the final sixteenth of a mile.
Several committee members said they'd met with their stewards and regulatory vets and concluded overuse of the whip has not been a big problem in their jurisdictions. Tom Sage proposed forming the subcommittee, which was approved.
Committee members added that riding crops have changed in the past decade to include padded poppers and called for education of the fan base. All agreed that education of riders also has been a successful approach to addressing the issue and more is needed.
ARCI president Ed Martin encouraged the subcommittee to act quickly to allow the full committee to take action as soon as July.
In a move on the Quarter Horse side that is of interest to Thoroughbred racing, the ARCI Rules Committee recommended the elimination of clenbuterol from use in Quarter Horses in training and later the full ARCI membership approved the rule.
Under the new rule, clenbuterol will not be allowed for horses in training. A Quarter Horse out of training can be administered clenbuterol for therapeutic use if the administration is reported and the horse goes on the vet's list for at least six months.
The RMTC has crafted rules that typically apply to all breeds, but the new rule makes an exception for clenbuterol. For Quarter Horses clenbuterol will not be allowed in the racing environment, but for Thoroughbreds it is still allowed as one of the controlled therapeutic substances approved for racing.
On the Thoroughbred side, clenbuterol carries a 14-day withdrawal time. RMTC executive director Dionne Benson said because the model rule addresses a concern of the American Quarter Horse Association that is not based on RMTC science, the group does not have a problem with the exception.
"I think from our perspective, breed-specific rules have to be for policy reasons. Obviously the AQHA has articulated a policy that is their concern," Benson said. "Because it is based on a specific policy, specific to that breed, and it is not based on the information that we provided. It's their decision to make."
The rule will apply to Thoroughbreds who race against Quarter Horses in mixed-breed races.