The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, on a 4-2 vote Dec. 3, recommended the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission adopt the national uniform medication rules for Thoroughbred racing.
The vote included the rules for Quarter Horse, Arabian, and Appaloosa racing. The KEDRC opted to table action on the Standardbred medication rule given one of two members that represent the breed on the council was absent, and there are concerns over a few of the suggested changes.
The KHRC is scheduled to meet Dec. 11, at which time it could act on the KEDRC recommendation. The commission also has the right to approve the proposed Standarbred document if it believes the rules should be uniform for all racing breeds.
KEDRC members Sen. Damon Thayer, Rogers Beasley, Dr. Gary Lavin, and Dr. Jerry Yon voted to support the model rules. Trainer Rick Hiles and Dr. Andy Roberts voted against the changes; they suggested there isn't enough scientific evidence to support changing the cut-off for administration of the bronchodilator clenbuterol from three days before a race to 14 days as recommended by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.
The vote came after more than a hour of debate.
"This industry is being hurt in the court of public opinion because of perceived or real abuses of medication (in racehorses)," Thayer said. "If we don't try to control our own destiny the federal government is going to take over this sport. The federal government can't even run a website it had three years to prepare for.
"I believe in states' rights. There is an opportunity for us to lead. Is (the document) perfect? No. There are actually a few instances in which our regulations are stricter than (the model rules)."
Lavin said he supported the model document "with grave reservations" but said "It's the best thing to come along. Let's take the baby step. The first thing you hear on the backside is, 'We want uniformity.' "
Roberts, who has a Standardbred vet practice but breeds and races Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds, said there are physiological differences among breeds and supports breed-specific rules. On the harness racing side, Roberts said he has issues with the phenylbutazone administration level and the cut-off times for clentbuterol and corticosteroids.
"Standardbreds clearly take the greater punishment with the 14-day withdraw (for clentuterol)," Roberts said. And there is no evidence Standardbreds are using clenbuterol for other than therapeutic purposes. I've spoken with some of the largest practitioners in the country. That's not the operating model for Standardbreds."
It was noted during the drug council meeting that several other states–Delaware, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania–are considering or have commited to different rules by breed.
"I think we're going to send a mixed message but I want to do a little more research on this," Thayer said of his reason for voting to table action on the Standardbred model medication rule.
In other business, the KEDRC approved a plan to establish a field test on administration of corticosteroids in racehorses; it now heads to the KHRC for approval. The drug council would provide funds from Feb. 15-Dec. 31, 2014, to collect serum from horses that receive intra-articular injections.
The samples would be tested by the HFL Sport Science lab in Lexington in order to identify trends that can be used to set guidelines for future administration of the drugs.