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New York Gaming Commission to require prompt notice of horses being gelded at tracks

New York Gaming Commission to require prompt notice of horses being gelded at tracks
By Matt Hegarty

The New York Gaming Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a rule requiring horsemen to notify track personnel within 72 hours of a horse being gelded ontrack, during a meeting in which the commission also approved a rule allowing Standardbred horses to be administered clenbuterol up to 96 hours before a race.

The rule requiring notification of a first-time gelding builds on an existing Jockey Club rule that requires horsemen to promptly report the information to the industrys registry, which maintains records that are on file in racing offices. New York Gaming Commission officials said similar rules had been put in place in Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma, and that the rule would protect New York horseplayers.

Although no specific penalties are attached to violations of the regulation, the New York rule would require trainers to notify the racing secretary at the track where the procedure is performed within 72 hours of the operation. If the procedure is performed offtrack, the rule requires the owner or trainer of the horse to report the alteration at or before the time the horse is entered to race. Many horses are gelded to improve performance.

The commission approved the 96-hour rule for administration of the bronchodilator clenbuterol as a concession to Standardbred interests who had argued that a proposal to prohibit the administration of the drug within 14 days of a race would be a de facto ban. The commission had already approved the 14-day rule for Thoroughbreds as part of an overhaul of the states drug rules aligned with an effort by other states to adopt uniform regulations.

Racing commissions in the United States have sought to tighten clenbuterol rules over the past several years because of the drugs potential to build muscle mass when used regularly. Dr. Scott Palmer, the gambling commissions equine medical director, said at the commission meeting that the 96-hour rule will still prevent Standardbred horsemen from using the drug for this so-called repartitioning effect because most harness horses run once per week, and because any Standardbred horse who has not raced for 30 days will be prohibited from being administered the drug within 14 days prior to its first race back.

The split rule will have exactly the same effect in both breeds, Palmer told the commission.

The approval of a split rule for clenbuterol for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds has been a source of controversy in racing because of potential legal implications and the rift it has exposed between the two breeds.

In its approval of the rule change, the commission also amended an existing rule regarding a list of 24 approved medications for Thoroughbred racing by electing to omit references to zero-tolerance levels for drugs that are not on the approved list.

Palmer said the commission wanted to omit the language because the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International had begun to recommend that state racing commissions avoid the zero-tolerance term. The RMTC and RCI have led the effort to devise the list of approved drugs and shepherd them through racing commissions as part of the uniform-rules effort.

The term zero-tolerance is generally avoided by many racing chemists and regulators because of the implication that trace amounts of any prohibited substance found in a post-race sample will always be deemed a positive test. In reality, testing laboratories in all sports do not test for many substances below certain levels of detection to avoid calling positives for substances at extremely low concentrations, especially for known environmental contaminants like cocaine or easy-to-detect but short-acting drugs like the painkiller naproxen.

Dr. Dionne Benson, the executive director of the RMTC, said prior to the gambling commission meeting that the RMTC and RCI recently decided to back away from the notion that there would be zero-tolerance for any substance not on the approved list because of the false impression among some horsemen that trace amounts of any other drug would result in a violation. She said racing laboratories are being told to continue to use the detection limits already in place for many commonly used drugs.

Were encouraging the commissions to tell their laboratories that if they already have testing thresholds in place, they do not need to phase them out, Benson said.

At the same time, Benson cautioned that drugs such as dermorphin, a banned painkiller derived from a toxic skin secretion produced by South American frogs, would result in a stiff penalty at any level of detection.

There are some things out there that obviously do not belong in a horse at any level of concentration, Benson said.

Palmer told commissioners that it is implausible to suggest that racing laboratories could devise threshold levels for literally thousands of drugs available to horsemen due to funding and manpower limitations common to any sport. He also noted that the ARCI has identified 64 drugs not on the list that have therapeutic uses in horses.

Its not that these medications cant be used, Palmer said. They just shouldn't be used in close proximity to a race.

Finally, the commission also adopted a rule that will prohibit a horse from racing or breezing within 10 days of being treated with shockwave therapy or similar treatments. Shockwave therapy delivers high-pressure waves to injured or sore areas to improve blood flow, and it is thought to numb the area for several days. An identical rule has been in place at NYRA under the associations house rules for several years.

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