Kentucky HBPA Takes Medication Plea to Governor

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has asked Gov. Ernie Fletcher to authorize a "full review" before any changes are made to the state's equine race-day medication policy.

In an Aug. 1 letter to Fletcher, Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline outlines the organization's position on the proposed changes to the medication policy. The Kentucky HBPA supports the current policy, which allows use of multiple therapeutic substances up to four hours before a race.

The proposed policy, approved by the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council and the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, calls for use of only Salix, an anti-bleeder medication, and one adjunct bleeder medication on race day. Currently, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also can be used on race day.

The proposed Kentucky policy models that of the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, which has been successful in getting many other jurisdictions to meet the standards.

"Representatives of the Kentucky HBPA have met with the RMTC in an effort to suggest that any proposed changes in current therapeutic medications and regulations for any jurisdiction must be supported by a preponderance of peer-reviewed published scientific research demonstrating that the policy in place is not in the best interests of the health and well being of the equine athlete," Maline said in his letter to Fletcher. "This approach, requiring peer-reviewed research, is the current policy of the National HBPA, representing 50,000 owners and trainers nationwide. As an affiliate of the National HBPA, the Kentucky HBPA supports the efforts aimed at creating medication and testing policies for the horse racing industry that is uniform and scientifically based."

Maline noted the consortium is allowing Florida and some states in the Mid-Atlantic region to maintain their current policies pending the results of ongoing research. Florida will continue to use one NSAID on race day, while the Mid-Atlantic jurisdictions will allow use of one adjunct bleeder medication.

The crux of the argument by the Kentucky HBPA is the Kentucky policy shouldn't be changed until scientific research suggests otherwise. "There seems to be a double standard," Maline said in his letter.

The Kentucky HBPA from the outset has lobbied to have a representative on the national consortium. The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, the state's other horsemen's group, does have a representative. However, arguments have been made the Kentucky HBPA is represented through the National HBPA, whose Medication Committee chairman, Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA, has a consortium seat.

The Kentucky General Assembly Interim Joint Subcommittee on Licensing and Occupations delved into the medication issue at its June meeting and will do so again in late August. Lawmakers have requested more testimony and didn't offer an endorsement of either position.

There remains a possibility Fletcher could adopt emergency regulations for the proposed policy.

The Kentucky HBPA in the letter noted how Fletcher organized "the best minds" to work through the racing industry workers' compensation insurance issue before any legislation is passed. "The signature industry of Kentucky and the thousands of people that are employed in racing, along with the continued health and well being of the equine athletes, deserve nothing less than a full review of this equally important issue," the letter said.