In a release sent to members, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association said a split sample program for horsemen racing at New York Racing Association tracks started with opening day of the Aqueduct Racetrack fall meet Nov. 3.
NYTHA said horsemen at NYRA tracks, in the event of a positive test, will have the option of sending a referee sample to an independent lab to verify test results. There is some discrepancy between New York regulators and horsemen about whether that option has been available to trainers in the past, and trainer Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has an active lawsuit going against the state's regulators in which he claims he was denied a referee split sample.
The release said the split sample program is largely funded by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which is paying for dedicated refrigerators used for the storage of the referee samples at the three NYRA tracks, the extra tubes and labels required, and the service to dispose of the blood once tests for the initial sample have cleared.
Dr. Kyle Moyer of the New York State Gaming Commission, who oversees the testing barn at Aqueduct, explained the protocol for the collection of referee samples.
"From our standpoint, the procedure is much the same as it has been. We collect an extra tube of blood, and we have developed labeling for the tubes for the referee samples, which is a change from what we had used," Moyer said in the NYTHA release. "There is now a third card signed by the representative of the trainer, but it is the same as those for the urine and blood samples. There is no extra work for the horsemen."
Dr. Moyer added that there is a three-step system to ensure that the blood taken for testing and the referee sample, while remaining anonymous, are properly marked. The labels for the blood sample and its referee sample have the same tag number, and the same bar code. The tag number is also noted on the card signed by the trainer's representative.
NYTHA president Rick Violette Jr. remarked, "A split sample program offers protection that should be available to all horsemen, and is something that NYTHA has advocated for some time. We are pleased that, through our partnership with the New York State Gaming Commission, the program is now a reality, and has launched without a hitch."