A Jan. 30 meeting of racing stakeholders in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions showed how difficult it can be to achieve uniformity, even with the best intentions or most basic of regulations.
Regulators and horsemen's representatives at the Delaware meeting said third-party administration of furosemide on race day is working well, but they indicated the "four-hour rule" for administration of the anti-bleeding medication really isn't uniform.
In Maryland, for instance, furosemide (also called Salix or Lasix) can be administered three to four hours before a race. In Delaware, the range is 3 1/2 to four hours prior to a race. Pennsylvania and New Jersey mandate the cut-off at four hours.
"If this is going to be uniform, we all need to be on the same page," said Todd Mostoller, executive director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "Just tell us what we need to follow. I just want everyone to follow it."
"The element of four hours is something we have to enforce," said Frank Zanzuccki, executive director of the New Jersey Racing Commission. "Everyone wants to comply with the Maryland rule, but this creates an issue for us."
Alan Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the long-held four-hour rule for furosemide was a "policy decision" not based on the science of use of the drug. Still, the national model rule being adopted from state to state maintains the standard four-hour administration cut-off.
Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, said the organization hasn't entertained changes in the administration time for furosemide because no one has asked about it. "It seems to me more states are adhering to four hours than are not, so I would consider (keeping that policy)," Martin said.
The group also discussed issues with flunixin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is on the list of 24 therapeutic medications with threshold testing levels and withdrawal times. Officials said the advised administration of 20 nanograms at 24 hours before a race is problematic and in need of more research.
In New York, a study was done using 20 horses in the care of trainer Rick Violette Jr. The advised dose and administration time of flunixin—also called Banamine—resulted in four or five positives, extremely high given the number of horses sampled. Another study produced similar results in California.
Violette, president of the New York THA, said there is concern among horsemen that following guidelines and rules isn't enough to avoid positives and penalties. He likened the process to "using a sundial" to set administration times but then using pinpoint technology to test for substances.
"As trainers, we want to be told what we can do and sleep at night," Violette said.