Kentucky Purse Regulation Will Be Reviewed

Purses from two days of current Keeneland meet delayed due to suspicious tests.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will review a regulation that permits tracks to withhold all purses from an entire day of racing when there is a suspicious post-race test for any horse racing that day.

Under KHRC rules, racetracks are allowed, but not required, to withhold purses from the entire race card when there is a suspicious test; once the test has gone through the confirmation process and either cleared or a horse is disqualified and all parties notified, the track is required to release purses to all horses.

The rule was implemented after management at some tracks complained that when purses were distributed and a horse was later disqualified due to a positive drug finding, it was the responsibility of the tracks to collect the money that had already been paid. In one instance, Keeneland was unable to retrieve a purse under such circumstances.

Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the KHRC, said several weeks could lapse between the time a race was run and any suspicious post-race tests have gone through the entire process to the point where purses can be released to owners and trainers. According to information provided at the Oct. 24 KHRC meeting, purses have not been distributed for two race days during the current Keeneland meet due to suspicious tests.

When questioned about why purses for all races are withheld, and not just the race in which the suspicious test was detected, Scollay said it was necessary to protect the anonymity of the testing procedure. She said if the track or testing laboratory knew from which race the suspicious test was taken, it would quickly become obvious which horses were involved since only two horses per race are tested.

That knowledge, Scollay said, could corrupt the anonymity of the process and jeopardize any resulting investigation.

Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association president Rick Hiles and racing commissioners Tom Ludt and Dr. Foster Northrop said they had received calls from horsemen who were waiting on their purses to be distributed and were frustrated by the delay.

“It’s getting to be annoying,” Hiles said, noting that the issue had come up in the past.

Keeneland chief operating officer Vince Gabbert said the track was operating within the guidelines of KHRC rules by withholding the purses. Representatives of three other Thoroughbred tracks—Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, and Ellis Park—said it was their policy not to withhold purses pending the outcome of the suspicious tests, even though they could under the regulations.

KHRC chairman Robert Beck directed commission staff to review the regulation to “see if there is a better way to do it.”