Anne M. Eberhardt

Kentucky Steps Toward Medication Uniformity

Racing commission Dec. 11 decides against separate withdrawal times based on breed.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Dec. 11 approved changes to its withdrawal time guidelines for all racing breeds in line with the national uniform medication rules.

The KHRC is well on its way to becoming the latest state to adopt the national uniform rules which started with eight states approving the Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication Reform. On Wednesday, the KHRC approved the withdrawal time guidelines outlined for that plan's 24 recognized therapeutic substances. 

The KHRC said the plan's enhanced penalty system that focuses on repeat offenders is being examined and will be brought to the commission next year. After rule changes are approved by the commission, they typically take four to six months for approval at the state level in Frankfort.

KHRC chairman Robert Beck Jr. said a uniform medication policy should create more confidence in the sport among bettors, and could help end federal efforts to oversee the sport.

"It gives the general public some comfort that, other than Salix, horses will not be racing on medication," Beck said, adding that if federal lawmakers see an industry-wide effort at uniform rules they may end any plans to add their own oversight.

The KHRC did not put separate withdrawal guidelines in place for Standardbred racing as favored by Alan Leavitt, the lone Standardbred KHRC representative. Leavitt had called for different withdrawal times for clenbuterol and corticosteroids, saying it's needed because of Standardbreds' more frequent race schedule. The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council had recommended changes to withdrawal times for Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the state but did not take a position on Standardbred racing. 

On Wednesday, the KHRC approved the new withdrawal guidance for all breeds by a 10-2 vote, with Leavitt and Tom Conway opposing the change because of the Standardbred racing concerns. Ultimately the commission determined separate rules for Standardbreds would not be a good idea.

"If we start carving out exceptions, we will endanger the larger goal of uniformity that we're shooting for," said commissioner John Phillips.

Leavitt said he favors uniformity but thinks the rules should be written specifically to each breed. He said Delaware, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are either considering breed-specific rules or will not adopt the uniform rules without such changes. 

In a presentation, KHRC equine medical director Mary Scollay noted that prominent Standardbred racing states like New Jersey and Illinois have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, the national uniform rules without breed exceptions.

On Dec. 3 the industry's Racing Medication and Testing Consortium released two papers that found no physiologic difference in the various racing breeds to justify changes to its established regulatory thresholds for clenbuterol and corticosteroids. For all breeds in Kentucky, the clenbuterol withdrawal time will go from 72 hours to 14 days while corticosteroid use also will be moved further from race day. 

Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association chairman Alan Foreman has championed national uniform medication reform. He also is vice chairman of the RMTC, which supports the uniform rules.

"There were a lot of people in Kentucky who did a great job to make this happen," Foreman said. "The commission did a great job. They were methodical."

Uniform medication reform, which also calls for third-party administration of race-day Salix and the use of RMTC-certified labstwo measures Kentucky already has in placecontinues to gain momentum in key race states. Scollay said the only prominent racing states who have not at least considered the changes are Arizona, Florida, and Louisiana.

"The great thing about it is it's been less than a year since we started this," Foreman said. "The industry has embraced the reforms. I think there is a collective sense that this is the new direction on medication. We can build on it...we're not there but we're getting there. I'm confident we'll get this done through the entire country."