While more debate is sure to follow, Kentucky regulators are considering allowing tracks in the state to card races that would prohibit the administration of race-day furosemide, commonly called Salix or Lasix.
At the Aug. 27 meeting of the rules committee for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, committee member John Phillips outlined a plan that would allow tracks to card races that would be contested under the International Medication Protocol as a condition of the race. That protocol prohibits race-day medication.
Commissioner Phillips, who owns Darby Dan Farm, suggested such a move would be attractive to tracks such as Keeneland as a way to attract more international horses to compete in races. Committee member Thomas Conway opposed the measure, saying it would undermine the state's current rule that allows race-day Salix; and committee member Burr Travis said there should be more open discussion on the issue that would include input from tracks, horsemen, and other interested parties.
The committee decided to table the issue until its regular September meeting in which it hopes to include discussion from tracks and horsemen.
Phillips said the rule would allow a racetrack to card a Lasix-free race and see if horsemen support it.
"It would be an extra tool in the toolbox for racing jurisdictions," Phillips said. "There are some people who are very concerned about our ability to relate to an international market and attract international horses. The thought was, 'Let's give a racetrack the right to say this is going to be one of the conditions of the race.' ... It's a good compromise between the 'Lasix' and 'non-Lasix' people."
Commissioner Conway, a Thoroughbred owner, said the current rule in Kentucky does not allow such races. Conway opposes using money from the purse fund to card such races.
"You're going to have to change the Lasix regulation," Conway said. "You can't bar somebody out of a race because they want to use Lasix. What you're doing here, you're taking purse money and saying, 'Come all ye who want to ban Lasix. We've written a special race for you.'"
Conway said it would effectively give the tracks the power to change a KHRC rule.
"You're going to have to do this the proper way with a public hearing, and go through the process again," Conway said. "You can't go through the back door and do away with Lasix for one race or two or three races. Kentucky has a regulation that says Lasix is a permissible drug ... If you're going to turn rules over to the racing secretaries, you ought to abolish the racing commission."
Phillips and KHRC general counsel Susan Speckert said the current Lasix rule could allow for such exceptions in race conditions.
Breeders' Cup president Craig Fravel attended the meeting but did not comment during the proceedings. In 2012 and 2013, Breeders' Cup host Santa Anita Park wrote race conditions that prohibited the use of race-day Salix in Breeders' Cup races for 2-year-olds.
Breeders' Cup ended all Salix restrictions for the 2014 event after California horsemen threatened to withhold approval of simulcast wagering on the event. At the time, Breeders' Cup said its 2014 event would have to be conducted under rules consistent with the state's medication policy.
At this point the Breeders' Cup does not have specific plans to run Salix-free races in 2015 when the World Championships are contested at Keeneland, but the organization continues to support international policies that prohibit race-day medication. A regulatory rule change could give Breeders' Cup added footing.
"We've been clear all along that we believe at some point the Breeders' Cup should be consistent with international rules so we we're obviously interested in what was being done here," Fravel said.
Earlier in the meeting the rules committee approved a recommendation to the KHRC that medication penalty rules in line with the Association of Racing Commissioners' model rules be approved. In several instances, the new rules will take away latitude of the stewards. For instance, previous rules that called for fines or suspension, now will require fines and suspension.
The committee tabled for further discussion a proposed added detail to the state's rule that allows horsemen who claim a horse to return the horse if it registers a positive test for an illegal medication in the race it was claimed. A new section of the rule would see the new connections time-frame for any such disputes end once the new connections start the horse, even if there is a subsequent receipt of a failed post-race or TCO2 test from the race where the horse was claimed.
The new section of the rule was tabled after the committee was informed of recent delays in test results. KHRC equine medical director Mary Scollay believes such delays will soon come to an end but the committee wanted to make sure tests can be turned around in a timely manner before making a final decision.
Reform-minded committee chairman Ned Bonnie outlined several areas he'd like the rules committee to take action on in the months to come. He provided research material for the committee members and encouraged them to develop ideas to tackle the issues.
The issues included improved testing and continuing education of trainers, with a focus on veterinary information and a goal of reducing breakdowns. Bonnie would like to see the KHRC add oversight of compounders who operate in the horse industry—as well as trainers and vets who use such products.
The committee members also were asked to look into polices on shock wave therapies, expanding the jurisdiction of KHRC security beyond tracks and training centers, and updating rules on out-of-competition testing that would provide more latitude on when such tests are conducted. Bonnie also would like to look at vet conduct and improving information-sharing, specifically requiring new connections to be supplied with a horse's previous veterinary records (for instance after a claim has occurred).
Bonnie said based on industry gatherings like the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit and the Jockey Club Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, it's clear that action is needed in these areas.
"If we don't do it; who's going to do it?" Bonnie said. "I think it's time for us to get off the dime and do something."
Correction: This story was updated to say ... The committee tabled for further discussion a proposed added detail to the state's rule that allows horsemen who claim a horse to return the horse if it registers a positive test for an illegal medication in the race it was claimed. A new section of the rule would see the new connections time-frame for any such disputes end once the new connections start the horse, even if there is a subsequent receipt of a failed post-race or TCO2 test from the race where the horse was claimed.
The ability of Kentucky horsemen to request such tests is not affected by the committee's decision.