Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Dan Metzger

Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Dan Metzger

Anne M. Eberhardt

Groups React to Breeders' Cup Drug Phase-Out

A plan to ban race-day medication in Breeders' Cup races has generated comment.

Industry organizations that have weighed in so far are for the most part supportive of the plan by Breeders’ Cup to phase out race-day medication use in the World Championships beginning in 2012.

Others, however, are walking the line or privately indicated concerns over the plan to end race-day use of anti-bleeding medications, in particular Salix, for 2-year-olds in 2012 and the rest of the World Championships in 2013.

The Jockey Club issued a statement July 15 commending Breeders’ Cup but also encouraged the Thoroughbred industry to take steps to reform medication policies and impose stronger penalties for those who violate them.

“The Jockey Club applauds the exemplary leadership that Breeders’ Cup has displayed with its plan to eliminate race-day medications in its championship events over the next two years,” James Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, said in a statement. “As we said back in April, the integrity of horse racing and the health and safety of our human and equine athletes requires horses to compete free from the influence of medication.

“We hope that other industry stakeholders, and particularly state racing commissions, will see the wisdom of the Breeders’ Cup decision and will reconsider many of the medication policies, drug classifications, and penalty structures we currently have in place. Our policies should mirror those in the rest of the racing world and prevent chronic offenders from having a continued place in our sport.”

When contacted July 15, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Dan Metzger said TOBA “commends the decision by Breeders’ Cup to phase out race-day medication. As the rights-holder to World Championships races, Breeders’ Cup is uniquely situated to create policies and structure. This should resonate not only in U.S. racing but around the world.”

Metzger said the American Graded Stakes Committee, which falls under the TOBA umbrella, will discuss the issue at its August meeting in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which helped organization an international medication summit in New York in June, acknowledged the action by Breeders’ Cup but didn’t state support. The NTRA board, which is comprised of racetracks and horsemen’s groups, hasn’t reached a consensus on a race-day drug phase-out.

“The Breeders’ Cup plan to phase out race-day medication is consistent with the organization’s growing emphasis on the international scope of its Championship event,” NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop said.

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which will hold its summer convention beginning July 21 in Seattle, Wash., and the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association have questioned the push to ban Salix. Many horsemen have cited research that suggests the medication is beneficial to racehorses.

A key meeting will be held Aug. 4 when the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a group of 25 industry stakeholders, discusses various topics including the proposed phase-out of race-day Salix and related adjunct medications that are legal in some racing jurisdictions.

Also meeting soon is the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and on Aug. 14 The Jockey Round Table in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., will include a presentation on medication.

“We urge the members of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the (Association of) Racing Commissioners International at their upcoming meetings to continue the momentum to reform these rules and policies.”

The June medication summit spanned two days and was designed to outline equine drug policies in foreign jurisdictions that generally do not allow race-day drugs. There was no consensus among attendees judging by comments made during the public portion of the meeting.