Time to Unite

By Gary Biszantz
As chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association I feel an obligation to encourage all horsemen to unite and support uniform medication rules for the United States.

Our industry has been plagued for years by suggestions of medication abuse and a playing field that is unfair and not level. Trainers and horses shipping from state to state face serious penalties for positive tests because of varying rules in each state. The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, comprised of horsemen's groups, racetracks and racetrack associations, trainers, veterinarians, chemists, and regulators, was formed three years ago to develop a national medication policy that would allow consistent rules and testing for all participants in Thoroughbred racing.

The consortium's medication policy calls for only the administration of furosemide (Salix), with recommended guidelines, on race day. One of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is allowed to be administered (again with recommended guidelines) 24 hours prior to the post time of the race. Also, threshold levels are stated for administration of these NSAIDs at 24 hours prior to post. This policy was adopted after two years of work by representatives from 25 industry organizations. Differences were put aside and compromises were made based on the scientific research presented so that a consensus could be reached.

To date, 12 states have voted to adopt the consortium's medication policy, which calls for a limited use of medication on race day. At least 10 other states are in the process of adopting the policy.

I am concerned about the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association's position to oppose both the consortium's policy and all the other racing jurisdictions that have embraced it.

Liberal and permissive use of many medications has cast a shadow on Kentucky racing and its integrity. For example, under current Kentucky Thoroughbred medication policy, there are no limits on how much phenylbutazone or flunixin (Banamine) you can give a horse up to four hours before a race. The "stacking" of phenylbutazone and Banamine creates an extremely potent analgesic effect that is not safe for horse or rider. Also, the Kentucky Thoroughbred medication policy places no limit on the amount of Salix that may be given before a race.

As Kentucky horsemen, we must lead the parade toward integrity and fairness through uniform medication rules. Kentucky may have the rightful claim to being the Thoroughbred capital of the world, yet no racing jurisdiction on earth permits as many drugs to be administered to a horse just prior to a race as the Bluegrass State. We have a chance to remove the shadow and lead the country in both racing quality and integrity.

In defense of the current medication policy in Kentucky, the Kentucky HBPA has demanded that the consortium produce research that shows the Kentucky medication policy is not safe to horse and rider. Unbelievably, the Kentucky HBPA does not wish to acknowledge that the safety of drugs needs to be proven and supported by research before medication is used, not after. The Food and Drug Administration does not allow drugs to be used without first proving their safety, so why should the Kentucky Thoroughbred racing medication policy be different?

If the rest of America warmly embraces a uniform medication policy with a limited use of medications on race day, then Kentucky can only achieve a black eye by endorsing the current HBPA position.

The Kentucky Equine Drug Council voted 7-1 to recommend to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (KHRA) that it adopt the consortium's medication policy. It is now up to the KHRA to adopt the policy and support uniform medication rules.

The opportunity exists for uniformity on medication rules. I urge all owners, and especially Kentucky owners, to support what all of the U.S. believes to be the correct path.

GARY BISZANTZ is chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and owns Cobra Farm near Lexington.