Kentucky 'Mouthwash' Scratch Puts Rule Under Scrutiny

The scratch of Joseph Vitello's Tenpins from the $400,000 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park Sept. 14 could lead the Kentucky Racing Commission to revise its four-hour rule, perhaps as soon as Sept. 24.

The stewards scratched the Don Winfree trainee after a report that Tenpins had received something orally within four hours of the race. Winfree said a groom washed out the horse's mouth with an herbal wash.

Trainer Rick Hiles, a member of the Kentucky Equine Drug Council, said 90% of the horses that race in the state are treated with a similar substance. It helps clear their throats from food and dust particles before a race, he said.

"Many horsemen are in a state of confusion now," said Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "By the strictest interpretation of the rule, you can't even give a horse water."

Dr. Rick Sams, who attended the Sept. 16 meeting of the drug council, said the mouthwash is legal in Ohio, so long as prohibited substances aren't included in the mix.

Racing commission ch airman Frank Shoop said the issue would be addressed at the Sept. 24 racing commission meeting. The four-hour rule says no medication can be administered within four hours of a race.

Meanwhile, three issues floated by the drug council will be addressed by the commission, including a rule for prohibited practices, a resolution to permit out-of-competition testing, and assistance from the Kentucky Board of Pharmacists in identifying people who supply or acquire substances considered by the Association of Racing Commissioners International as prohibited substances, namely erythropoietin and darbepoietin.

The racing commission on Sept. 24 is also expected to discuss and perhaps pass revisions to the state's race-day medication policy. The number of permitted substances would drop from 16 to five under the proposed guidelines.

Drug council member Ned Bonnie said he would like the council to undertake scientific studies to determine which medications should be permitted.

Dr. William Baker, another member of the drug council and a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said the Salix-only race-day policy that stemmed from the Racehorse Medication Summit in December 2001 didn't necessarily come from the AAEP's membership at large, particularly those who treat racehorses. He also said there is no scientific basis for it.

"This council has an obligation to put that question to bed," Bonnie said. "If they don't have the scientific support for that position...they had better get off Kentucky's back."

Kentucky allows the most race-day medications, and thus has been labeled problematic by some in the industry.