Kentucky Moves Ahead With Drug-Testing Contract

The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority is moving forward with renewal of an equine drug-testing contract with Iowa State University pending review of the document by the state Finance Cabinet and assurances test results will be expedited.

The authority approved the motion during an April 19 meeting. It also announced that an investigation into the death of jockey Mike Rowland after a racing accident at Turfway Park produced no evidence of violations.

The current drug-testing contract is good through July 1. Iowa State took over Kentucky drug testing from Truesdail Laboratory in California after the old Kentucky Racing Commission put the contract up for bid a few years ago.

Commissioners said there generally is a 13-to-15-day turnaround for results, though the lab accommodates requests for special races such as the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). In that case, results for the top finishers usually are back in 48 hours.

The lab always has informed racing officials within four days if there is a positive test, officials said.

Commission chairman Bill Street said there is an issue of timing, but not quality. Kentucky's testing program, headed by Dr. Walter Hyde, is believed to be one of the best in the country.

There has been behind-the-scenes talk in Kentucky about a push to open a drug-testing facility in the state. The subject didn't come up at the meeting, but in comments, Commerce Secretary Jim Host asked: "Why are we doing business in Iowa?"

The authority and the University of Kentucky recently agreed to suspend the equine drug research program at the Gluck Equine Research Center in Lexington, according to a memo obtained by The Blood-Horse. The parties were supposed to issue a joint release in early April, but haven't done so. The issue wasn't addressed at the authority meeting, at least not before an executive session was called.

In related business, authority vice chairwoman Connie Whitfield was introduced as chairwoman of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, which hasn't met since last year. The former chairman, Robert Stallings, was the Kentucky Racing Commission representative, but the commission was abolished earlier this year and replaced by the authority. Terms on the drug council end Aug. 1 of this year.

Rowland died in early February from injuries he suffered when his mount fell on the far turn in a race at Turfway. Jessie Skees, the authority's acting executive director, said a probe by the state Inspector General's office revealed that "all precautions were taken by employees to ensure the race was conducted in a safe manner."

Meanwhile, the search for an executive director continues. Commission officials have been interviewing candidates, and Street said he hoped the position is filled by June 1.