CHRB Relaxes 25-Day Requirement on Claimers

Change expected to help field size; board also takes further action on clenbuterol.

The California Horse Racing Board gave final approval April 26 to a rule change that eliminates "jail time" for most horses that are claimed.

The change revises a requirement that in order to run a horse back within 25 days of being claimed, it must be entered for a price that is at least 25% higher than what it was claimed for. Under the new rule, only a trainer of a horse that wins a race in which it was claimed must adhere to the 25% rule. All other claimed horses can be entered back at the same level with no time restriction.  

Without discussion during its meeting at Betfair Hollywood Park, the board gave unanimous approval to the claiming rule change. The Thoroughbred Owners of California supported the move as did track racing secretaries.

During the board's Jan. 19 meeting, TOC President Lou Raffetto said the change would encourage trainers to bring back claimed horse sooner, thereby improving field sizes in such races.

In another action regarding claiming races, the board approved for a 45-day public comment period a rule that specifically details defects in the process of claiming a horse that would make the action invalid.

The rule clarification was undertaken after an incident at Golden Gate Fields in February in which a claiming slip was submitted with the wrong date, which had been written by a racing office clerk. Stewards initially allowed the claim to go forward in spite of the error. However, they reversed themselves at a hearing later and awarded the horse to another party that had submitted a claim and fined the responsible party $200.

The new rule specifies that the details on the claiming slip that must be correct -- such as the new trainer's name, the race number, and date -- or the purchase will be invalidated.

Elsewhere, the board gave final adoption to a medication policy that doubles the time period for imposing a Category "B" second offense penalty from one year to two. A third offense penalty from the same category was extended from one year to five years. The changes follow the guidelines recommended by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

The board approved a request from the Pacific Quarter Horse Racing Association and the California Authority of Racing Fairs to extend a ban on the use of clenbuterol in Quarter Horses to the fair meets this summer. Last year the board took emergency action at Los Alamitos Race Course when banning the FDA-approved  bronchodilator because of alleged misuse of the drug, which can mimic anabolic steroids at higher doses. During a meeting of the CHRB's Medication and Track Safety Committee last month, a spokesman for the horsemen at Los Alamitos expressed satisfaction with the move.

The additional ban takes immediate effect under the board's emergency powers.

The board plans to consider a similar halt to the use of clenbuterol in Thoroughbred racing at its next meeting May 24 at Golden Gate, chairman Keith Brackpool said.

Trainer John Shirreffs, who chairs an advisory panel to the medication committee, said at last month's meeting that clenbuterol is being abused in the Thoroughbred industry and poses a danger to horses. He advocated a ban on its use and assured the commissioners that many other trainers agree with him. The committee, consisting of board members Bo Derek and Chuck Winner, a new commissioner, is recommending a ban to the full board.

Dr. Rick Arthur, CHRB equine medical director, and Dr. Scott Stanley, head of the Ken Maddy Equine Testing Laboratory at University of California-Davis, reported that 58% of the samples collected from Thoroughbreds during an out-of-competition testing program in March contained clenbuterol. More in-depth research involving plasma samples is being conducted at UC-Davis. But Arthur and Stanley told the committee they do not believe the use of illegal, high-strength clenbuterol in Thoroughbred racing is anywhere near as widespread as in Quarter Horse racing.

Brackpool said the board wants to hear more from the TOC and the California Thoroughbred Trainers on their positions next month.