Kentucky Horsemen Prepped on New Drug Rules

Racing commission tells horsemen to be wary about using certain corticosteroids.

Kentucky horsemen March 14 were given an overview of impending equine medication changes, and also provided with a few tips to avoid headaches when the new regulations take effect later in the spring.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission plans to adopt the national model uniform drug rules already in place in a few states. The rules include threshold testing levels and withdrawal times for 24 legal therapeutic medications commonly used by horsemen.

Kentucky, however, also has opted to provide "guidance" to horsemen on about 30 other substances and their withdrawal times. Policy on such substances differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

"It's not a matter of 24 medications and nothing else," said Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the KHRC. "We will have uniformity on the 24 substances, but for other substances guidance will continue to be available.

"The list of 24 (drugs) isn't static. If there are other medications you would like guidance for, there is a process in place for submitting those recommendations (to the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium)."

Scollay addressed a small group of horsemen gathered in the recreation hall at Turfway Park.

Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, asked how there can be uniformity if racing states handle some drugs differently.

"It's uniform for the 24 drugs, which is much more than we had in the past," Scollay said. "If we have success with this, I believe we'll be able to move forward. The core 24 is not the beginning and the end."

Among the major changes, the current KHRC administration guideline for the bronchodilator clenbuterol will go from 72 hours before a race (three days) to 14 days. Intra-articular administration of three corticosteroids–betamethasone, methylprednisolone, and triamcinolone–will jump to seven days from 48 or 72 hours depending on the substance.

"These new rules on corticosteroids require much more thought (by horsemen) in administration," Scollay said. "Stay away from them. (If not), they're going to tie you up for a while."

Also under the new rules, procaine penicillin can't be administered after a horse is entered in a race; the current KHRC recommended cutoff is 21 days. Use of the drug will have to be reported, and there will be mandatory surveillance of the horse in question, at the owner's expense, for six hours before a race.

Scollay said the drug is a local anesthetic, and that the surveillance is necessary "to prevent someone access to a horse to 'block' it."

Furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix, will continue to be administered four hours prior to a race by regulatory veterinarians.

When asked about the status of the furosemide phase-out regulations passed by the KHRC a few years ago, Scollay and KHRC director of racing Marc Guilfoil said there has been no movement. The regulations never were filed as part of the legislative approval process.

"Administration by regulatory vets has worked very well in Kentucky," Guilfoil said.

"I would be floored if there is any movement on it," Scollay said. "I think we have found a legitimate middle ground that meets the integrity needs of the game and the medication desires of horsemen."

Scollay noted that Kentucky had taken the action in the hope that other jurisdictions would follow suit, but none have. Regulatory administration of furosemide is part of the national model rules.