The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board of directors July 14 signed off on recommended changes to a proposed model rule on medication penalties but acknowledged acceptance of its suggestions could prove difficult.
The model rule on multiple violation penalties–MVPs–has support from other major horsemen's groups such as the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Thoroughbred Owners of California. It will be considered by the Association of Racing Commissioners International when it meets July 30-31 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the votes are already counted when we get to Saratoga," said Dave Basler, executive director of the Ohio HBPA and chairman of the National HBPA Model Rules Committee.
The National HBPA board, upon recommendation from its medication committee, approved suggested changes in the model rule in regard to points for medication violations and the addition of language that would compensate for environmental contamination that may lead to equine drug positives. The most controversial recommendation calls for suspensions to be served concurrently.
"Our position is pretty clear and non-controversial, except for the one (recommendation)," Basler said. "In a perfect world we would not support the (MVP proposal), but a version of this rule is going to pass the RCI. Our best approach (to suggest modifications) is best for our membership."
Even if the model rule is endorsed by the RCI, it must be adopted by each state racing commission. National HBPA members at the July 14 meeting in Shakopee, Minn., indicated that may not be easy; horsemen's groups often lobby regulators or are consulted on policy.
"We're going to fight them in Kentucky, I can tell you that," Kentucky HBPA president Rick Hiles said.
"I think there are various states that won't pass it," Basler said.
National HBPA president Robin Richards of Virginia said the organization is taking the proper approach by suggesting changes rather than opposing penalty reform, which it actually supports.
"We are not a fox in the hen house," Richards said. "We are the people who, along with veterinarians, should be discussing these rules. But if we just say no to everything, we won't be taken seriously."
In a related matter, the National HBPA again said it will push for vets to complete its survey of controlled medications they believe should be the approved list. There currently are 24; the National HBPA believes there could be about 10 more that should be added.
The group also expressed disdain for the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium's requirement that members sign a confidentiality agreement in order to view research that led to its threshold testing levels for therapeutic drugs.
"The concept (of an approved list) is good, but the thing that bothers me is you're not seeing the thresholds and how they arrived at them," said Kent Stirling, executive director for the Florida HBPA.
National HBPA officials said a large number of practicing vets should have input on the list of controlled approved therapeutic substances as should the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
They also said they woud oppose any plan that would alter the model rules penalty structure to accommodate trainers with large, multi-jurisdictional stables because it would fly in the face of uniformity.