Kentucky to Consider Graded Stakes Testing Proposal

The Kentucky Racing Commission and the Kentucky Equine Drug Council in October will consider the mandate by the American Graded Stakes Committee that enhanced drug testing be implemented by next year in order for stakes to maintain their grades.

Members of the drug council Sept. 4 said they support plan, though the costs will be borne by racing associations in the state. It currently costs $118 to $128 to test one sample; that cost would jump to about $200 per sample because the number of substances tested for would go from 30 to 108 under the proposal.

Racing commission executive director Bernie Hettel said Dr. Walter Hyde of Iowa State University, where Kentucky's drug-testing laboratory is located, told him the lab would have no problem performing the added tests.

"The only difference is the number of tests to be performed," Hettel said. "We can do it--it's just a matter of the price. Our testing already exceeds what's in the proposal. It's just a matter of the number of tests."

On a program with one or more graded stakes in Kentucky, there may be 20 samples taken, each at cost of about $200. Rogers Beasley, director of racing at Keeneland, said the track would seek racing commission approval at the panel's Oct. 2 meeting to begin the testing at its fall meet, which begins Oct. 4.

"It's important to do it," Beasley said. "Down the road, they're not going to give you any grades (if it isn't done). It's that simple. Our board has already approved it."

According to a memo from the graded stakes committee, which is administered by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, racing commissions must provide a letter affirming the tests will be performed.

During its rather lengthy and at time tenuous meeting, the drug council moved to get a legal opinion from commission attorney J. Bruce Miller as to whether the racing commission can pay Dr. Rick Sams of Ohio State University for consultant services rendered over the past two years. Sams is owed about $30,000, according to documents released at the meeting.

The drug council has tried for some time to get Sams the money, but the state attorney general issued an opinion that said state statute prevents the drug council from using funds to pay for out-of-state services. Council member Ned Bonnie challenged his colleagues to cut Sams a check because he believes the opinion was in error, but the rest of the council wouldn't go for it.

"To not pay is inappropriate in the extreme," Bonnie said. "If we pay, it would put the burden on somebody that wants to argue about it."

Council chairman Richard Stallings said Bonnie had asked the panel to "go out on a limb." The council now will wait for the legal opinion, which is expected at its next meeting Oct. 2.