Kentucky HBPA Polling Horsemen on Drug Policies

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is polling horsemen to get their opinions on the state's medication policies, which include a ban on all Class 1, 2, and 3 drugs within 48 hours of a race, and use of anti-inflammatory anti-bleeding medications on race day.

In a letter dated Feb. 7, Dr. Alex Harthill, a racetrack veterinarian and president of the Kentucky HBPA, tells the membership that racing in Kentucky "is under heavy fire from certain groups, particularly the press and some persons who consider themselves to be experts in an area that is most important to our industry." Harthill said a consensus of opinion among Kentucky horsemen is necessary "to continue the progress that racing has made" in the state.

Harthill says he personally is not in favor of "lax medication rules," but believes that, because horses are "flesh and blood," veterinarians "must be allowed to remedy these maladies by the use of anti-inflammatory and therapeutic medications."

Harthill says that, in his opinion, Kentucky horsemen and veterinarians support uniform medication policies. He then asks in the letter if anyone can find a better model than Kentucky, where stimulants, depressants, local anesthetics, narcotics, antihistamines, bronchodilators, hallucinogens, and performance-enhancing drugs are banned within 48 hours of a race. Anti-inflammatories and anti-bleeding drugs, he said, are permitted "to ensure the health and welfare of the equine athlete."

The letter says a "reputable accounting firm" would tally the votes, which must be in by April 1.

The Kentucky HBPA poll comes at a time when the industry seems to be heading toward uniformity in national drug-testing procedures, and perhaps medication rules. The Kentucky HBPA and some Kentucky-based racetrack vets complained that their viewpoint didn't have adequate representation during the first Racehorse Medication Summit held in December in Tucson, Ariz.

Summit participants are looking at the use of therapeutics in racehorses. In December, they reached a consensus only on furosemide, which they recommended should be available for use on race day. Meanwhile, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force is preparing to release the results of the second round of "super tests," which focused on therapeutic medications.