Breeders' Cup Begins Drug Phase-Out in 2012

Breeders' Cup said July 14 it will begin phasing out race-day medication next year.

Breeders’ Cup said it will prohibit use of race-day medication in World Championships races for 2-year-olds in 2012 and all events in 2013.

The board of directors made the decision at its July 14 meeting. Officials said the move is necessary to get Breeders’ Cup policies in line with those in other countries at a time of growing international participation in the World Championships and related programs.

“Given the high level of international participation in our Championships and the increasing support for our nominations programs throughout the global Thoroughbred breeding and racing community, Breeders’ Cup feels strongly that the time has come to modify our medication policies to be consistent with international practices,” Breeders’ Cup chairman Tom Ludt said in a July 14 statement. “Breeders’ Cup has a longstanding reputation for setting high standards of safety, security, and integrity for the participants in our Championships, and this measure continues that tradition.”

United States racing is considering, but has not yet acted upon, a proposal to ban race-day medication, primarily anti-bleeding drugs such as Salix and related “adjunct” drugs. There has been behind-the-scenes talk of a strong push to eliminate adjunct medications and ban the use of Salix on race-day in 2-year-olds, perhaps next year.

It wasn't immediately known if Breeders' Cup took action on the premise a ban will be enacted.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium will meet Aug. 4 to discuss a potential phase-out of race-day medication. An international medication summit in June in New York produced no consensus on the issue.

If race-day Salix administration isn’t banned for all 2-year-old races in 2012, it would set up a scenario of horses racing on the drug before the World Championships, then racing without it in the Breeders’ Cup. A similar situation could develop in 2013 in all Breeders’ Cup races.

Breeders’ Cup said the move was “strongly supported” by the board of directors.

In a release Breeders’ Cup touted its new international nominations program that has raised more than $3.5 million in the first half of 2011. The new one-time open enrollment program produced 107 nominations and $1 million in fees, while the new international stallion nomination program that began in January has produced $2.5 million in revenue to date from 390 nominations, officials said.

Breeders’ Cup said it is “subject to the racing regulations of the various jurisdictions in which the event is held,” and that it “works with its host jurisdictions to ensure that its policies and Breeders’ Cup standards are consistent.” In addition to the host jurisdiction policies, Breeders’ Cup also sets policies and procedures as a condition of entry in the Championships.

Thus, it’s unclear what will happen if the race-day medication ban is inconsistent with a host state’s drug regulations.

Interestingly, not even two hours after the Breeders’ Cup announced its intentions, U.S. Rep. Tom Udall of New Mexico issued a statement praising the move. Udall is among the legislators that have called for an all-out ban on race-day drugs.

“Today’s announcement that the Breeders’ Cup will eliminate race-day medication over the next two years is a good step in the right direction,” Udall said. “But much more needs to be done to end the chemical warfare on American racetracks, from graded stakes to maiden claiming races.

“The Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act, which I introduced earlier this year in the Senate, would prohibit racing horses under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs and set strict penalties for doping, including ‘three strikes, you’re out.’ This legislation is the only feasible way to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing and kick dopers out of the sport.”

The legislation has some supporters in the horse racing industry, but many—including those who want to end the use of race-day medication—say the language in the bill is problematic.