NYRA 'Milkshake' Tests to Begin Feb. 16

The New York Racing Association will begin pre-race and post-race testing for "milkshakes" Feb. 16 at Aqueduct. Both forms of testing will be performed in an effort to collect data to determine the best method.

Random pre-race testing will be performed each day, while post-race testing will be performed on every race, NYRA officials said in a Feb. 9 release. Post-race tests will determine whether "blood gas" levels exceed predetermined thresholds.

A milkshake is a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and a liquid force-fed to a horse before it competes. They now can be administered by means other than a tube that directs the mixture into a horse's stomach.

"There has been vigorous debate within the industry over which testing practice employs the best methodology," NYRA co-chairman Steven Duncker said in the release. "We will do both to help New York racing and the entire industry in becoming more knowledgeable through this collection of data."

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 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.

Cornell University, which performs equine drug testing in New York, now freezes urine samples for use as new tests for various substances are developed. NYRA and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association are picking up the cost for the research.

The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council is scheduled to discuss milkshake-testing protocol at its Feb. 17 meeting. Kentucky has had a milkshake prohibition policy since 2001 but it hasn't been enforced for Thoroughbred racing.

The harness racing industry in Kentucky and many other states has been testing for milkshakes since the 1990s. Major Thoroughbred tracks and racing jurisdictions recently made such testing a priority.