The Maryland Racing Commission plans to begin testing for cobalt levels in racehorses this summer.
MRC executive director Mike Hopkins said May 21 the commission approved an emergency regulation at its May 19 meeting. He said the Maryland regulation follows a model rule approved by the Association of Racing Commissioners International board of directors in late April.
Cobalt is a naturally occurring substance in racehorses, but it's also present in various feed supplements. The model rule, which will be considered by the RCI Model Rules Committee in July, sets a trigger of 50 parts per billion of cobalt in plasma. At that point it would be considered a Class B penalty with a 15-day suspension, $500 fine, and disqualification of the horse from purse money.
If a horse tests over 25 parts per billion and up to 49 parts per billion of cobalt, it would be placed on the veterinarian's list until it tests for less than 25 parts per billion, and the trainer would be fined under the RCI model rule. In both cases horses that exceed the thresholds would have to be retested at the expense of the owners.
Hopkins said the MRC has been testing samples for cobalt to gauge its use. He said no high readings were found in Thoroughbreds, but there were high several high readings in Standardbreds.
The MRC approved an emergency regulation in the hope it reduces the length of time it normally takes—about 3 1/2 to four months—to be legislatively approved.
"This process would allow us to cut the time in half," Hopkins said. "If the legislation says OK, we could have it place around the first of July."
After the conclusion of the Pimlico Race Course spring meet in early June there is no live Thoroughbred racing until early August at Laurel Park. On the Standardbred side there is harness racing all summer at Casino at Ocean Downs on the Eastern Shore after the Rosecroft Raceway meet ends in early June.