Though Keeneland’s January horses of all ages sale was the first to be conducted under new policies allowing buyers the right to request testing for exogenous anabolic steroids in weanling and yearling purchases, there was only one such request made during the seven-day auction at which almost 1,500 horses were sold.
Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, said the low number of requests does not indicate a disinterest in steroids testing, but is attributable to the fact that yearlings sold at this time of the year are still essentially foals. Foals of 2007 became yearlings Jan. 1, 2008, under the universal birthdate for Thoroughbreds.
“(Administration of steroids) is more prevalent in yearlings, and these ‘short’ yearlings are still foals for all intents and purposes,” Russell said.
Russell said the marathon Keeneland September yearling sale would be the litmus test for how much interest there is in testing for anabolic steroids in sale horses.
Steroids testing will not be done at the Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale because that auction is conducted under rules of racing for the state of Kentucky. Currently, those rules permit administration of anabolic steroids, Russell said.
Kentucky regulators recently began the process of studying regulation of steroids in racehorses.
Under policies adopted by Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton Kentucky, administration of anabolic steroids to weanlings and yearlings is banned within 45 days of the date of sale. A purchaser can check a box on the sales receipt requesting a blood test of a horse at a cost of $500.
If the horse tests positive for anabolic steroids, the buyer must notify Keeneland within 24 hours of obtaining the test results to rescind the purchase and request reimbursement of some expenses, including a refund of the $500 testing fee.