Chad Harmon

Breeders' Cup: No Expense Spared on Integrity

The organization held a briefing on drug testing, security, and safety protocol.

Breeders' Cup believes it is well-prepared in the areas of safety and security for its Nov. 1-2 World Championships at Santa Anita Park.

The organization, for the first time, held a morning media briefing on its integrity efforts Oct. 31. The discussion included equine drug-testing procedures and racing surfaces.

"Safety and integrity are the most important parts of the Breeders' Cup mission," Breeders' Cup president and chief executive officer Craig Fravel said. "We literally spare no expense having the best veterinarians and track experts on site to make sure the races go off without a hitch."

As for the overall cost, Fravel said: "It's a big number. If we identify a need, we write a check."

There is 24-hour security for all Breeders' Cup horses, which had to be on the grounds 72 hours before their race day. The race-day medication furosemide, also known as Salix or Lasix, will be administered by third-party vets.

"There is a large number of horses to work around, but the trainers have been cooperative," said Dora Delgado, senior vice president of racing and nominations for Breeders' Cup. "It's not business as usual (during Breeders' Cup) so we have ruffled a few feathers, but in general everyone has cooperated."

Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, said 25% of the horses pre-entered for the World Championships were randomly selected for out-of-competition testing for blood-doping agents. As of the evening of Oct. 29, all of them had cleared testing.

"In this quality of horse you wouldn't expect (to find anything), but it's still important to do," Arthur said.

All starters will be tested for TCO2 levels 35-40 minutes before their respective races, which is standard procedure in California. Arthur said the first four finishers in each Cup race will be tested post-race at the Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at University of California-Davis.

Blood and urine samples will be taken from the first four finishers, but Breeders' Cup reserves the right to test any horse whose "performance in a race, in the opinion of the stewards, may have been altered by a prohibited substance." Any horse is subject to such testing, officials said.

Dr. Deborah Lamparter, chief veterinarian for the New Jersey Racing Commission, said the vet panel created in 1993 is in place again this year with four vets from major U.S. jurisdictions, and one each from Canada and the United Kingdom. They will assist California vets with physical inspections of all starters.

The team started inspections Oct. 26, and they will continue through race day, Lamparter said.

The Breeders' Cup Injury Management Plan, also developed in 2003, employs three equine ambulances, two of which track the horses in each race. There are UC-Davis equine surgeons in the vehicles.

Drs. Larry Bramlage and Wayne McIlwraith will again be the on-call veterinarians under the American Association of Equine Practitioners program used at major racing events. Bramlage said the on-call vets will, if a situation develops, get information from the vet inspection team and "put it in accurate, digestible language for the general public."

Dr. Mick Peterson of the non-profit Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory said he has been working with Santa Anita in conjunction with the CHRB for some time on regular testing and maintenance of racing surfaces in the state. Each surface has its own issues.

"Water is the big issue (at Santa Anita)," Peterson said. "We had a little rain recently which is a great way to go into (the Breeders' Cup). We provide a map of moisture content every day to keep the track as consistent and fair as possible."

Peterson acknowledged there is kickback on the dirt surface at Santa Anita, but there has been ongoing modification of the makeup of the track.

"We're trying," he said. "It's absolutely better than it was. We studied different types of sand, picked out different ones, and modified the content. Kickback is very moisture-dependent, so keeping it consistent on the whole is a real challenge."