The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council is devising a sweeping plan for security in barn areas at the state's racetracks, but it appears funding for an increase in manpower could be the major impediment.
The drug council, which serves in an advisory role to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, has formed committees that will address receiving and detention barns, vehicle searches, confiscation of syringes and tongue ties, out-of-competition testing, monitored administration of race-day Salix, licensing of anyone who enters the stable area, and 24-hour surveillance by personnel. Recommendations are to be submitted to the KHRA by June 1.
"What we're talking about creating is a community watch group, a partnership between veterinarians, trainers, the tracks, and the horse racing authority," KHRA executive director Jim Gallagher said.
Funding is an issue, officials said. The KHRA already operates on a tight budget, and racetracks may be pressed to come up with the money. Kentucky Harness Horsemen's Association executive director Bill Napier, a member of the drug council, said a few harness tracks can't even afford a daily assessment levied by the KHRA.
During a May 11 drug council subcommittee meeting, officials toyed with a few ideas, including asking the state for assistance or making racetracks comply with certain security measures as part of their licensing process.
"It comes down to dollars," KHRA member John Cashman Jr. said. "The state gets tax money from pari-mutuel betting, and at some point will have to stand up and fund (security measures). The only thing that's going to help is a big financial commitment from the state to back it up. It's criminal what's going on, and the state has a big obligation."
Cashman and others painted a not-so-pretty picture. They discussed blood-doping and its affect on horses, the lack of a test for it, and the fact race-day security measures don't stop it because the actual substance, erythropoietin, is administered days before a race as part of a treatment program.
"We've got serious problems with owners not wanting to get into the business or getting out of the business because of the things that are going on," Cashman said.
Subcommittee members agreed the most effective strategy includes the simple practices of "barn walking"--having enough security personnel on the lookout 24 hours a day--and having all horses in one location a given number of hours before a race program. The process, however, is complicated by the fact a large number of horses now ship in to race from facilities that aren't regulated or monitored.
"I'm a big proponent of 'feet on the ground' to start with," said Marc Guilfoil, director of Standardbred racing in Kentucky. "I haven't read in a long time where a vet truck has been searched."
Officials also said that from a testing standpoint, Kentucky must focus more on use of "esoteric" substances rather than overages for therapeutic medications. Most of them agreed drug testing, in particular out-of-competition testing for substances like EPO, should be part of the security proposal.
"There's always someone ahead of the curve," trainer Frank Brothers said. "I think the game overall is on the up and up, but it seems like the testing is always a day late and a dollar short."
Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, told drug council chairwoman Connie Whitfield the consortium is looking at anabolic steroids, which aren't prohibited for use in horses. But he said addressing steroids won't be easy.
"They're used like water," Waterman said. "We're talking about a major shift, and it's going to be a major fight. We're trying to figure out how to address them. Addressing them is one thing; getting through the political battles is another. I've got to get every (racing) commission to sign on."