New Scratch Rule in Kentucky Takes Another Step Toward Reality

A proposal to increase the length of time before a horse can race again after being scratched for veterinary reasons moved a step closer to reality July 23, when the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority approved a final draft version of the new regulation.

Under the proposed new rule, a horse scratched for veterinary reasons could not run again for nine days. The current rule allows for a “vet-scratched” horse to run six days after being scratched. The KHRA had previously approved changing the rule to allow the scratched horse to be “entered” six days after the scratch.

Due to varying entry times at the state’s tracks, however, the Authority decided to stipulate the horse could not run for nine days after the scratch.

Representatives of the state’s Thoroughbred tracks had previously voiced support for the longer re-entry period, citing abuse of the present system. They contended some horses are being scratched without having a medical condition and that there is insufficient staff in the state veterinarian’s office to confirm the validity of each scratch.

Some believe that by increasing the number of days before the scratched horse could be re-entered, trainers would be less likely to scratch a horse on the basis of a veterinary problem. This, in turn, would presumably lead to larger field sizes.

Marty Maline, executive director of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, argued that the new rule could have the opposite effect and lead to even smaller field sizes. He noted that the rule would preclude horses scratched for minor problems, such as being treated with medications for shipping purposes, from being held out of racing for an inordinately long period.

Tom Ludt, the only Authority member to vote against the latest version of the rule change, said he believed the changes would unfairly penalize those who scratch their horses for legitimate reasons. He had previously stated he would prefer that the state legislature provide the KHRA veterinary unit with sufficient staffing and funding to police the vet-scratch process.

The proposal would also direct the tracks to maintain records of scratch activity and field sizes for one year to help determine the impact of the new regulation.

Before the proposal would take effect, it must be reviewed by the Legislative Research Commission staff to determine if it complies with state statutes. Then, the proposal will be debated at a public hearing before going on to the General Assembly for action.

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