The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, acting on advice from the Equine Drug Research Council, unanimously approved medication withdrawal guidelines and threshold levels at a special meeting Feb. 10.
The medication penalty phase, along with recommended withdrawal guidelines and threshold levels, goes before the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee of the Kentucky legislature Feb. 13.
Kentucky's new race-day medication guidelines officially went into effect Feb. 3.
Under Kentucky's medication regulation, only the anti-bleeder drug Salix and two of four adjunct bleeder medications can be administered up to four hours prior to a race. One of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can be administered up to 24 hours before a race.
The withdrawal guidelines were drafted by Dr. Jorge Calone and Dr. Andy Roberts. The two Lexington veterinarians used New York State's withdrawal guidelines as a starting point while researching threshold levels and speaking with veterinarians across the country.
"We don't want to halt drugs that will help a horse, but we don't want horses in races that should not be," Colon said. "If these guidelines are followed, there shouldn't be any problems."
The new guidelines also permit trainers to submit urine or blood samples to the Authority veterinarian for analysis if they have questions whether or not a specific drug has successfully cleared the horse's system in time for race day. The test results would be available within two to three days with the trainer bearing the cost for analysis.
"It's in good faith that we offer this pre-test," said Roberts. "Positive tests are a black eye for everyone."
Kentucky has allowed for this type of pre-testing in the past, but this will be the first time it has been part of a regulation.
Connie Whitfield, KHRA vice-chair and chairman of the equine drug research council, said several legislators, along with representatives from the Kentucky HBPA, requested withdrawal guidelines and threshold levels be attached to the penalty regulations before they were sent to committee.
The issue of withdrawal times and threshold levels has been contentious between horsemen and authority members. When the new drug regulations were enacted under an emergency order in September, horsemen and veterinarians sought a legal challenge against the authority.
Susan Bunning, who represented the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association on the equine drug council, initially opposed the new guidelines but changed her vote after available threshold levels were added for ten therapeutic drugs.
Included in the list of therapeutic drugs are: Furosemide, Phenylbutazone, Flunixin, Ketoprofen, Clenbuterol, DMSO, Diclofenac, Meclofenamic Acid, and Ibuprofen. All other NSAID's not listed on the withdrawal guidelines have a threshold set at limit of detection.
"The HBPA felt it was very important to know the threshold levels. We didn't want to have zero tolerance," Bunning said. "Otherwise, if you've used a therapeutic drug, with the proper withdrawal schedule, and there is still a small trace amount -- an amount that has no effect on the performance of the horse on race day -- you don't want to get a violation. Knowing the withdrawal periods and threshold levels makes us feel better."