Proposed Racehorse Drug Rules Debated in New York

Proposed Racehorse Drug Rules Debated in New York

Officials heard the pros and cons of having different medication rules for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The New York Gaming Commission (NYGC), during a Jan. 21 public hearing, heard the pros and cons of having different medication rules for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses.

The NYGC, which oversees horse racing in the state, is currently considering uniform model drug rules approved by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) and adopted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI). Many states in the Mid-Atlantic region have enacted the rules or are in the process of adopting them.

Concerns over withdrawal times and threshold levels for clenbuterol and corticosteroids led the United States Trotting Association (USTA) to leave the RMTC in late September 2013 and to publicly oppose the rules adopted by RCI. Standardbred leaders have repeatedly said current regulations are effective for harness horses.

"We've used (the medications) for 10 years or more, and we don't have a problem with them," USTA president Phil Langley told the NYGC. "Our breed is just so durable."

RMTC executive director Dionne Benson, DVM, outlined the organization's position and said concerns by the Standardbred industry were addressed last fall via formation of an ad hoc committee that developed white papers on clenbuterol and corticosteroids. She said the determination by scientists and veterinarians was that "said thresholds are appropriate for all breeds."

Benson also said there are lingering concerns over the effect regular long-term use of clenbuterol can have on racehorses of any breed. She defended the RMTC by saying consultants worldwide believe the organization took a "conservative approach" in setting thresholds and withdrawal times for 24 commonly used therapeutic medications.

"Many of these thresholds went through a separate (review) process (in the Mid-Atlantic region)," Benson said. "These have been thoroughly vetted. Those looking at (the model rules) from a regulatory perspective are on the same page."

Standardbred interests have noted the rarity of breakdowns in harness races, in part because of the physical makeup of the breed.

Joe Faraldo, president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, made the case before the NYGC.

He suggested a rash of breakdowns among Thoroughbreds a few years ago at Aqueduct Racetrack was the impetus for the push for the new rules in New York. Meanwhile, the rate of deaths in Standardbreds in New York is a fraction of those in Thoroughbred racing, Faraldo said.

"(The RMTC) has drafted rules it sees best fitted for Thoroughbred racing," Faraldo said.

New York has four Thoroughbred racetracks and seven Standardbred tracks.

Originally published on

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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