Three horses in this year's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) will receive race-day medications that are allowed in Maryland but prohibited in nearly every other state that conducts Thoroughbred racing.
While in recent years horse racing has made strides toward drug reform and uniform medication rules, one only need look at its biggest series, the Triple Crown, to see a lack of consistency in medication rules from state to state.
Preakness starters Goldencents, Mylute, and Govenor Charlie are scheduled to receive adjunct bleeder medications before the May 18 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. When Goldencents and Mylute started in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) they would have been breaking Kentucky rules by receiving such drugs. Starters in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) also will not be permitted to use adjuncts as they are prohibited in New York.
The only race-day medication allowed to be administered to Kentucky Derby and Belmont starters is Salix (furosemide, also commonly referred to as Lasix) which is used to prevent or reduce the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In those states, regulatory vets administer Salix.
Maryland is one of the most liberal states when it comes to adjunct bleeder medications, which supporters say, like Salix, prevent or reduce the severity of EIPH. The drugs are given on race day in addition to Salix. While the adjuncts have their supporters, the country's two leading horsemen's groups have supported efforts to prohibit their use.
The Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association supports a rule that prohibits adjunct medications but allows Salix to be administered by regulatory veterinarians. The HBPA said scientific study has shown Salix's efficacy at treating EIPH but scientific support is lacking for the adjuncts. The Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association has pushed for the Mid Atlantic Uniform Medication Program, which offers the same rule on Salix and adjuncts supported by the HBPA.
Maryland, which in April adopted the Mid Atlantic Uniform Medication Program supported by the THA, is scheduled to prohibit adjunct medications by September. THA chairman Alan Foreman, who has rallied support for the uniform medication rules, noted that in adopting the rules the Maryland Racing Commission rejected the request by some private vets to carve out an exception for the adjuncts. Any efforts by supporters of the adjuncts would involve convincing lawmakers to oppose the Maryland Racing Commission's action or through litigation.
Currently, besides Salix, Maryland allows adjunct bleeder medications aminocaproic acid (ACA), tranexamic acid, both antifibrinolytics; and carbazochrome, nicknamed "Kentucky Red." The only other states that allow carbazochrome or aminocaproic acid are Louisiana and Virginia. The only other state that allows tranexamic acid is Virginia. (West Virginia is in the process of prohibiting adjunct medications.)
In Maryland, private vets administer Salix and the adjuncts. At the time of entry the use of adjuncts is reported, but that reporting does not include the specific adjunct drug to be used.
"Sometimes they can change at the last minute," said Maryland Racing Commission chief state veterinarian David Zipf, noting that few other states are as liberal on their adjunct rules. "We allow quite a range. They come here and it's kind of a chance to grab this, or grab that."
The Mid Atlantic Uniform Medication Program and its Salix and adjunct policy has the support of Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas. If adopted, the Preakness would mirror the current Salix and adjunct-bleeder medication rules in place in Kentucky and New York. While Maryland adopted the framework of the reforms in February, it has not put all of its measures in place and could face an in-state battle from veterinarians who favor use of adjunct-bleeder medications.
Eight states have committed to the framework of the Mid Atlantic Uniform Medication Program: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
While those states have adopted the framework of the reforms, when the goal is uniformity, the details in the adoption process become all-important. At a February Maryland Racing Commission meeting, private veterinarian Dr. George Harmening voiced support for the adjunct bleeder medications and allowing an exception for their use in Maryland.
Such an exception would mean another year without uniformity in the region, and in racing's biggest event.