Two committees of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission have agreed on a set of regulations that will pertain to out-of-competition testing that is being pushed through before the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs.
During a lengthy Aug. 26 meeting, the KHRC rules committee and Equine Drug Research Council endorsed regulations that call for a first-offense penalty of a fine up to $50,000 and a ban from racing in the state for a period of one to 10 years. Also, those same penalties would apply to an owner, trainer, or anyone refusing to permit a horse to be tested. Horses that test positive under the regulations would be barred from racing in the state for 180 days.
At the Aug. 26 meeting and during "town hall" meetings earlier this week at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, KHRC equine medical director Mary Scollay-Ward said out-of-competition testing is important because it can detect substances, mainly blood-doping agents, that are not found in the regular post-race urine and blood tests.
Out-of-competition testing, in effect in Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Canada, allows the commission to conduct the tests on horses regardless of location, including other states if there is a belief that that the horse may eventually race in Kentucky. That capability generated an intense amount of discussion on how the commission could enforce its authority across state lines.
KHRC officials have said that due to the cost and inconvenience of out-of-competition testing, it would not be overly used. They have also defended the large fines and lengthy suspensions as necessary to serve as deterrents.
As with the town hall meetings, there was considerable discussion between members of the two committees and others within the industry present at the Aug. 26 meeting over issues such as jurisdiction and fairness of the penalties being meted out to the horses and individuals found in violation.
Because of input received by the KHRC staff and from the committee members, initial language that stipulated an owner and trainer would be subject to the penalties if either of them refused to have the horse tested was amended to read that the fine and ban from racing would apply to the "party responsible for the refusal."
Many horsemen had voiced concerns over the actions of one party—such as an owner refusing to have his or her horse tested even though the trainer approved and vice-versa--being used to penalize another party.
Initially, the ban on a positive horse from racing was 365 days, drawing strong negative reactions from trainers, owners, and veterinarians. That period was amended to 180 days.
Originally, the proposed regulation provided that the testing could be applied to horses under a certain set of circumstances that indicated a likelihood of racing in Kentucky, including those of trainers who have applied for stalls at Kentucky tracks. The language also included being a Kentucky-bred or -sired horse. As amended by the two committees, that wording was changed to include any horses that are eligible for nomination to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund and Kentucky Standardbred Development Fund.
"I don’t want this rule to fail on the basis of lack of jurisdiction," said rules committee chairman Ned Bonnie. "I am concerned about jurisdiction being legally defensible."
The regulations will be amended by the KHRC legal staff and be presented to the two committees during an Aug. 31 meeting and considered by the full commission Sept. 7. The regulations will be approved under emergency provisions, meaning that they can go into effect immediately for a period of six months. Before being fully implemented, they will be reviewed by the Legislative Research Commission and approved by a legislative committee.