With only a few differences, Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. will be utilizing the same testing procedures for "milkshakes" that are in effect at Keeneland Racecourse and similar to those at many other North American tracks during the spring meet that begins April 30.
Under the policy, outlined by Churchill president Steve Sexton during an April 25 meeting with horsemen, all horses racing at Churchill will be tested for total carbon dioxide blood serum levels. (Milkshaking is the administration of alkalizing agents for the purpose of altering the performance of a racehorse during competition, according to the Churchill policy.)
According to the Churchill policy, horses racing at the track will be required to report to the testing barn and undergo a pre-race blood test 45 minutes before post time. Sexton said the only exception to the requirement for horses to be tested at the testing barn would be for horses running in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Those horses will be tested in their individual stalls, which are already under surveillance leading up to the two races.
The tests will be analyzed by Iowa State University's veterinary diagnostic laboratory, with any level of 37 millimoles/liter of plasma or higher deemed to be a positive. No split samples of the tests will be taken and the Iowa State lab results shall be determinative, according to the policy.
The penalties for TCO2 positives, per trainer, are:
--First offense: "Earned surveillance" for the remainder of the meet, requiring surveillance for any horse the trainer intends to race for 24 hours prior to the race in which the horse is entered;
--Second offense: Trainer will be deemed a "persistent offender," and will be prevented from entering a horse at any Churchill Downs Inc. owned or managed facility race meet for a period of 30 days, beginning with the day the trainer is notified of the test results; and
--Third offense: Expulsion from Churchill Downs for six months, during which time they will be precluded from entering any horse within his/her care at any Churchill Downs Inc. owned or managed facility.
Sexton also said the track will be utilizing the Graded Stakes Committee's "supertesting" procedures for all graded stakes run during the spring meet.
The milkshake policy and supertesting program were among a number of changes affecting horsemen for the upcoming meet, the first since the historic track underwent a major redevelopment project.
One change that drew the greatest interest from the approximately 30 horsemen who met with Sexton was a new policy precluding wearers of owner/trainer pins from having access to third floor boxes, unless the owner or trainer is a season box holder.
Under the policy, trainers will be given a special sticker for their racing license that will provide third floor box seat access for them and their escorted guests to walk out and watch the races. The track has also set aside boxes A2-3 and A5-8 in Section 318 for trainers and their guests to watch their horses run without the need for any box stickers. Also, Churchill has approximately 25 boxes for distribution daily to owners and/or trainers with a horse in a race and would like third-floor box access for the day.
Sexton said the change was necessitated due to concerns from season box holders over the access to the area.
Trainer Bernie Flint, who has a third-floor season box, said in the past others used his box when it was not occupied and it never posed any problems when he asked them to relocate so he could watch races in which he had horses.
Rather than being more restrictive, Flint said he believed Churchill could garner more positive goodwill by allowing owners or trainers who are visiting the track to be able to "see the most beautiful and largest facility" in American racing by being allowed in the third-floor box area.
While Churchill officials will re-evaluate the policy, Sexton was not optimistic about it being changed, asking horsemen to see how they are affected by the policy during opening weekend. "There is no perfect solution," Sexton said of trying to balance needs of season box holders and horsemen.
As part of its redevelopment, Churchill has established a guest/ horsemen's relations booth, replacing the horsemen's lounge adjacent to the paddock. Also, a new room has been built for owners and trainers with horses running in Churchill stakes races, with a limit of eight people per horses and additional accommodations for larger ownership groups.