Testing for the practice known as milkshaking begins in New York today (Feb. 16). The testing, which has come together quickly, has been lauded throughout the backside, but at least one trainer thinks the New York Racing Association should not have made the information public.
"It's a good thing," Gary Contessa said the week before the testing began. "But I would have rather have seen them have milkshake testing and not announce it. If you make an announcement that tomorrow you're going to shake down all the drug dens in New York City, there's not going to be anything there if they have a warning. So I don't understand them announcing it. But certainly it's a good thing."
Contessa, one of the top trainers in New York, welcomes the new testing and hopes for everyone to compete on a level playing field.
"Anything that can make drug testing more serious is a good thing," he said. "To make this a level playing field--that's what we need.
"If you (look) back at the history of this game," he continued, "trainers used to win 16, 18, 20%. I don't know that I agree with trainers winning 35 or 40% of the time. Even I look at that with a cynical eye."
Contessa added that while he wonders how it would work logistically, he would welcome sending every horse to a detention barn prior to running in a race.
NYRA will be doing both pre-race and post-race testing for "milkshakes." Random pre-race testing will be performed each day, while post-race testing will be performed on every race.
The New York State Racing and Wagering Board adopted emergency rules Feb. 4 to authorize the tests for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. The rules set the threshold at 37 millimoles per liter, establish penalties, provide provisions to void claims, and set procedures for trainers to verify naturally high levels of TCO2 (total carbon dioxide) in racehorses.
A trainer whose horse tests positive for illegal substances will be required at his or her own expense to move any horses entered at NYRA tracks to a detention barn by 5 p.m. the day before a race. The procedure must be followed for 30 days for a first offense. A second offense will bring revocation of stalls at NYRA tracks.
A state veterinarian will draw blood one hour after each race. NYRA said that on occasion, there would be a three-hour post-race test. The horse in question would be monitored for the full three hours.