A judge has denied a request by the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association for a temporary injunction to delay implementation of a new equine medication policy in Kentucky, but he made an exception for veterinarians.
The new regulations, enacted under an emergency clause by Gov. Ernie Fletcher, will take effect Sept. 7, opening night of the Turfway Park meet. They will be studied by the Legislative Research Commission and be subject to public comment. An interim joint legislative subcommittee also is looking into the change in race-day medication rules.
The Kentucky HBPA and a group of about 15 racetrack tracks argued in Franklin County Circuit Court Sept. 1-2 there is no emergency that requires implementation of the rules before they go through the customary legislative process. The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority and Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders argued the current medication regulations pose an imminent threat to the public health.
After more than six hours of testimony, which ventured into discussion over whether the race-day medication policy should even be changed, Judge Roger Crittenden said he couldn't see that horsemen would suffer "irreparable harm" from the change in race-day medication rules. But he did say the case was made that veterinarians couldn't practice under the guidelines because they could be penalized for possessing substances and equipment used to help sick horses.
Vets testified the new regulations aren't clear. They said they could be fined and suspended for having things such as baking soda, which can be used for things such as cracked hooves, and stomach tubes, which are used to treat colic, and for possessing commonly used substances not approved by the Federal Drug Administration or for which there is no analytical test.
"It's takes all these valuable tools out of my hands that I'm using for the health and welfare of the horse," testified Dr. John Piehowicz, a racetrack practitioner based at Turfway and River Downs in Ohio.
The race-day policy that takes effect Sept. 7 allows for the bleeder medication Salix and two of four adjunct bleeder medications up to four hours before a race. It also allows for one of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs up to 24 hours before a race.
NSAIDs are at the heart of the argument. Currently, up to two NSAIDs can be used on race day.
Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline said the new regulations have generated confusion among horsemen and vets. He acknowledged some horsemen have said they may not enter horses when the regulations take effect, but that remains to be seen. Entries for opening night at Turfway will be taken Sept. 3.
Said Jim Gallagher, executive director of the KHRA: "We're respectful of the judge's decision that he agrees with 99% of the regulations. We're going to work with vets and horsemen to explain how the process is going to work. We're going to transition into the new rules."
Gallagher also indicated withdrawal guidelines for substances would be developed in conjunction with vets. The practitioners claimed they have no way of knowing cut-off times for certain substances under the new regulations.