Racetrack Vets Could Form Own Organization

As the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force prepared for its March 12 meeting, some racetrack veterinarians moved closer to forming their own organization.

"The Race Track Practitioners," a Lexington-based group, said a proposed universal medication policy it floated last fall has widespread support among its constituency. The plan espouses use of Class 4 therapeutic medications, threshold testing for Class 2 and 3 drugs, and a ban on all Class 1, 2, and 3 medications within 48 hours of a race.

Dr. Arnold Pessin, a consultant who at one time practiced on the racetrack, said that of 650 surveys mailed, 300 were returned as of the week of March 4. Every one supported the proposal authored by The Race Track Practitioners, he said. Responses were received from vets in more than 20 states.

In December, when the American Association of Equine Practitioners held its Racehorse Medication Summit, some racetrack vets claimed their voices weren't heard. In particular, Kentucky vets and horsemen insisted efforts were made to keep their views on medication--use of therapeutics on race day, for instance--out of the equation.

The AAEP advocates a ban on all race-day medication other than furosemide (Salix). Since it floated the policy in 2000, many industry groups have heralded their support for the proposal.

Pessin said the desire among racetrack vets to form their own association is "extremely strong." Though a group of Kentucky racetrack vets actually formed the AAEP, racetrack vets currently make up only 6% to 10% of total AAEP membership.

"They're calling me," Pessin said. "They realize they've got no voice. I think it's time to form another organization so we can be heard. The other thing is a stacked committee. It's cloak-and-dagger."

Dr. Jerry Johnson of Kentucky had attempted to land an invitation to the summit in Tucson, Ariz., but failed. At the time, he said organizers rejected his request because "they feel (Kentucky) is the root of all evil--a druggie state."

AAEP president Dr. Jerry Black said he first received notification last December that some racetrack vets might form their own organization. He said he hopes they stay with the AAEP but understands their position.

"We understand (the AAEP proposal) represents a change," Black said. "We've heard from our colleagues in Kentucky who say their voice wasn't heard in the AAEP medication policy. We did listen, and we ended up with a policy that supports the broader issue of uniformity in medication. The AAEP policy is more mainstream in what's being done across the United States."

Black said he intends to keep open the lines of communication in any event.

"Are we upset? No," Black said. "Are we moving forward? Yes."

The NTRA task force was scheduled to discuss the latest round of "super-test" results for therapeutic medication, said Jim Gallagher, its executive director. Funding for projects, and where the task force is headed next, also were on the agenda.