Model rules for race day medications, along with withdraw times and threshold levels for therapeutic drugs were a lively topic both Thursday morning and afternoon at the Association of Racing Commissioners International convention.
The convention for racing regulators, which runs through Friday morning, is being held at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort near Albuquerque, N.M.
At the forefront of the day's sessions were one on drug testing and standards and practices, along with a panel discussion on "Can You Still Win on Hay, Oats and Water."
The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), headed by director Dr. Scot Waterman, made an impassioned plea for funding, while executive director Dan Fick noted how far the model rules for medication has come.
"We're up to 29 states that have either finished or are in the process of adopting the rules," Fick said. "In most of those states, we haven't seen significant opposition from the horsemen. Once Kentucky came on board, everybody has pretty much said 'OK, this is the direction we'll go in the future.'
"I think by the end of next year -- some of this requires (individual state) legislation -- we'll be 100% across the country in terms of uniform medication rules for race day medications and the therapeutics we've recommended up to this point."
Waterman tackled what he called the "major beast of a project" and that is to create uniform withdraw guidelines for therapeutic medications.
"Our plan starts with identifying the most necessary therapeutic medications to the racehorse," Waterman said. "We did that about four years ago with the assistance of the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners). We need to go back and take another look so we'll have a priority list of drugs to work with. That is step one.
"Step two is to actually take that list and break them down into individual priorities. Some on the list are drugs we're going to want to deal with right off the bat; high priority drugs. We'll then have intermediate drugs and drugs that are low priority. We are also going to ask for the AAEP's assistance to develop a committee of veterinarians to look at each individual drug and try to reach a consensus on when the clinical effect of the drug is no longer noticed.
"As we start implementing threshold concentration levels at the laboratory level, the cost is going to go up," Waterman said. "There is no question about it when you start getting into quantification, the cost of testing increases. That is going to be a huge aspect in the future that we're going to have to deal with. We are asking for the horsemen to contribute to this long term. It's the horsemen that are driving this push toward uniform withdraw times."
In the "Hay, Oats and Water" session, Waterman discussed first how the concept is now a myth and then noted that there are lots of shades of grey now compared to 40 years ago.
The battle for 'hay, oats, and water,' he said, is a cat-and-mouse game between regulators and those on the backside seeking an edge in a race.
Waterman did, however, offer up his own personal thoughts on the matter.
"I feel like I'm in the minority when I stand up here and say, 'Yes you can win with hay, oats, and water,'" he said. "Many of the trainers who are out there don't believe in their own skills. They don't believe in their own capabilities. They believe that they have to have this stuff to win.
"It's brought home to me all the time when I hear these stories about these concoctions that are sold on backstretches on the United States," he said. "These wonderfully descriptive names like 'Green Speed' and 'Black Ice.' For all anybody knows, its saline solution with a little bit of food coloring, but there is a phenomenal market out there for the things. They're being marketed as a way to improve a horse's performance. We need to get the people in this sport to believe in themselves a little bit more and not believe so much in some magic potion."