Florida Lab to Handle Kentucky Testing

The University of Florida will handle equine drug testing for Kentucky.

The University of Florida Racing Laboratory has been selected to handle equine drug testing for Kentucky.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, on recommendation of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, unanimously voted Feb. 10 to hire the Florida lab. The drug council met before the racing commission to study the contract and make the recommendation.

The University of Florida will replace Iowa State University as the official testing lab for Kentucky. The Iowa lab’s contract expired last year, but it has been performing the service on a month-to-month basis.

Six laboratories responded to Kentucky's call for applicants, who made presentations to a drug council working group in December.

KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood said she hopes to have the Florida on board by March 1. Dr. Rick Sams, who runs the lab, expressed interest in meeting with Kentucky horsemen before the testing program begins, she said.

“Whenever there is a change, people worry about it,” KHRC chairman Robert Beck Jr. said. “We want to make the transition as easy as possible.”

The Florida lab will follow testing parameters set forth by the KHRC. Officials said threshold levels for various drugs won’t change.

Underwood said the Florida lab will perform tests for blood-doping agents at no additional cost, and also run “TOBA tests” in which a large number of drugs are tested for in racehorses. It will cost $175 for comprehensive testing, including androgenic anabolic steroids, of blood and urine post-race samples. The cost to test for total carbon dioxide--"milkshakes"--will be $10 per sample.

Testing costs, which fall on the racetracks, should drop about 25%, Underwood said. Officials reported that in December, equine drug-testing costs rose 66% at Turfway Park.

Drug council chairman Dr. Jerry Yon, also a member of the KHRC, said the drug council had about $2.9 million in funding available at the start of 2009. The council is funded by a percentage of pari-mutuel handle.

Yon said the drug council is outlining priorities for 2009, one of which is attempting to lower the cost of drug testing for racetracks in Kentucky.