Groups React to Breeders' Cup Drug Phase-Out

For the most part Thoroughbred racing industry organizations that have weighed in on the plan by Breeders' Cup to phase out race-day medication use in the World Championships beginning in 2012 have been supportive.

Others, however, are walking the line or have indicated concerns over the plan to end race-day use of anti-bleeding medications, in particular Salix, for 2-year-olds in 2012 and the rest of the World Championships in 2013.

The Jockey Club issued a statement July 15 commending Breeders' Cup but also encouraging the Thoroughbred industry to take steps to reform medication policies and impose stronger penalties for those who violate them.

"The Jockey Club applauds the exemplary leadership that Breeders' Cup has displayed with its plan to eliminate race-day medications in its championship events over the next two years," James Gagliano, Jockey Club president and chief operating officer, said in the statement. "As we said back in April, the integrity of horse racing and the health and safety of our human and equine athletes requires horses to compete free from the influence of medication.

"We hope that other industry stakeholders, and particularly state racing commissions, will see the wisdom of the Breeders' Cup decision and will reconsider many of the medication policies, drug classifications, and penalty structures we currently have in place. Our policies should mirror those in the rest of the racing world and prevent chronic offenders from having a continued place in our sport."

Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) president Dan Metzger said July 15 that TOBA "commends the decision by Breeders' Cup to phase out race-day medication. As the rights-holder to World Championships races, Breeders' Cup is uniquely situated to create policies and structure. This should resonate not only in U.S. racing but around the world."

Metzger said the American Graded Stakes Committee, which falls under the TOBA umbrella, will discuss the issue at its August meeting in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), which helped organize an international medication summit in New York in June, acknowledged the action by Breeders' Cup but didn't state support. The NTRA board, which is comprised of racetracks and horsemen's groups, hasn't reached a consensus on a race-day drug phase-out.

"The Breeders' Cup plan to phase out race-day medication is consistent with the organization's growing emphasis on the international scope of its Championship event," NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop said.

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association have questioned the push to ban Salix. Many horsemen have cited research that suggests the medication is beneficial to racehorses.

key meeting will be held Aug. 4 when the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a group of 25 industry stakeholders, discusses various topics including the proposed phase-out of race-day Salix and related adjunct medications that are legal in some racing jurisdictions.

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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