Change in Kentucky Drug Rules Could Trigger Lawsuit

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association could file a lawsuit to prevent implementation of a new race-day medication policy in the state.

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed the more restrictive rules Aug. 19 under an emergency order. The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority gave final approval to the new policy Aug. 15, and a day later, Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline said there was some question whether medication rules warrant an emergency procedure.

Maline said the HBPA could file suit Aug. 23 in Franklin Circuit Court to prevent the rules from taking effect before the administrative process is complete. The KHRA must now file permanent regulations with the Legislative Research Commission and will accept public comment on them.

Others plan action as well, according to Maline. "I'm told the veterinarians are meeting with an attorney (Aug. 26) to discuss similar action," he said.

Horsemen planned to meet the morning of Aug. 23 in Louisville to discuss the medication issue and hear from an attorney. Maline said depending on how quickly a hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled, horsemen's meetings could be held later this week at Ellis Park in western Kentucky, the Thoroughbred Center training facility in Lexington, and at River Downs in Ohio. (Many River Downs trainers also race in Kentucky.)

The new regulations, which allow for use of the bleeder medication Salix and two of four adjunct bleeder medications up to four hours before a race, will take effect Sept. 7--opening night of the Turfway Park meet--under Fletcher's order. A press release from Fletcher's office and various news reports stated only one adjunct bleeder medication could be used, but KHRA executive director Jim Gallagher reiterated Aug. 21 the correct number is two.

The race-day medication policy currently in use in Kentucky allows for use of up to five substances: Salix; up to two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (one must be phenylbutazone, with a choice of Banamine, flunixin, ketoprofen, meclofenamic acid, or naproxen); one steroidal drug (either dexamethasone, prednisolone, or prednisone); and Amicar, an adjunct bleeder medication. The new rules allow for use of one NSAID up to 24 hours before a race.

In an Aug. 17 memo to the Kentucky HBPA board of directors, Maline said he asked KHRA chairman Bill Street to allow the change in regulations to move through the customary process. "He informed me that this will be done, but the revised medication policy will already be in place by the emergency method," the memo stated. "The (current) rules have served Kentucky racing well for several years. It appears that there is no emergency that would require the KHRA to circumvent the ordinary administrative process."

The Kentucky HBPA sent Fletcher a letter Aug. 1 asking for a full review of the medication issue before any action was taken. The Aug. 17 memo said Fletcher didn't respond to the request.

"The real emergency will occur if the KHRA attempts to implement a new policy that prohibits race-day medication without properly informing horsemen and veterinarian racetrack practitioners of permitted threshold levels and withdrawal guidelines for various medications," Maline said in the memo. "Without this, the implementation of the new procedures will create, without question, utter chaos, and with the new stricter penalties careers may well be jeopardized."

The General Assembly's Interim Joint Subcommittee on Licensing and Occupations discussed the proposed changes in equine medication at its last two meetings and indicated it could do so again, perhaps at its Aug. 26 meeting.