The California Horse Racing Board takes over testing for bicarbonate levels in racehorses Oct. 19, meaning that, in addition to an ongoing detention barn program for offenders, licensees whose horses exceed allowed levels for alkalizing substances face automatic purse forfeiture as well as possible fines and suspensions.Racing associations and fairs, in partnership with horsemen, have been testing horses for excess total carbon dioxide (TCO2), which is indicative of "milkshaking," a procedure believed to increase the endurance of some horses. Whenever the TCO2 level has gone above 37 millimoles per liter of blood serum or plasma taken from a horse, all horses entered to run by that trainer have been placed in a detention setting for 30 days, where they have been kept under video surveillance for 24 hours before their races. In the past 12 months, no horse held under video surveillance has produced a high TCO2 value.The CHRB adopted a regulation in January to establish its own TCO2 testing program to complement its more extensive equine drug-testing program, which tests for more than 800 drug substances using state-of-the-art technology at the Kenneth L. Maddy Laboratory at the University of California-Davis. But because TCO2 differs in some critical aspects to the other testing, a change in the law was considered necessary before the new regulation could take effect.Beginning next week, the CHRB will test all horses at the Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields Thoroughbred tracks and will test Standardbreds randomly at Cal Expo. The blood samples required for testing will be collected at the receiving barn shortly before the horses compete at the Thoroughbred meets. The Standardbred samples will be collected after the race.Trainers will have the option of having a duplicate sample collected at the same time the primary sample is collected, but tested by a different laboratory at their own expense. The $165 cost for the collection and testing of a duplicate sample, which would be sent to either Iowa State University or Ohio State University, must be paid in advance.
Excessive TCO2 is considered a Class 3 violation in the seven-level classification system for unauthorized drug substances used by the CHRB. Under California law, violations involving Class 1 (the most serious), Class 2, and Class 3 substances automatically require the horse to be disqualified from earning any purse money in the race.
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