Florida Legislature Holds Fate of Racehorse Drug Reforms

Florida Legislature Holds Fate of Racehorse Drug Reforms

Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse stakeholders in Florida said they are united in backing the National Uniform Medication Program, but its fate lies with the state legislature.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse stakeholders in Florida said they are united in backing the National Uniform Medication Program, but its fate lies with the state legislature.

United Florida Horsemen, a partnership that works on legislative and regulatory issues, said agreement on the equine medication program was reached in early April. Florida horsemen earlier were labeled as holdouts in endorsing the plan, which includes the Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule and a new penalty system for violators.

Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Kent Stirling said April 23 the issue is reluctance by lawmakers to open state racing law to include the new drug policy.

"We've pretty much been told they're trying to back-door it in," Stirling said. "The problem is if you open (the law), everyone starts trying to add other stuff to it."

Parameters for adoption of the National Uniform Medication Policy vary from state to state. Some can adopt the rules by reference; others have to go through the legislative approval process.

"We can't adopt rules willy-nilly down here," Stirling said.

Florida's 2014 legislative session ends May 2. Meanwhile, The Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., plans to implement house rules tied to medication, integrity, and equine welfare, but also placed a deadline on adoption of the National Uniform Medication Program.

"In order to be effective, these reforms must be adopted and implemented by all racing states no later than Sept. 1, 2014," the company said earlier in April. "If this deadline is not met, The Stronach Group will work together with other concerned industry stakeholders to begin aggressively lobbying for federal legislation containing the same reforms outlined in the proposed National Uniform Medication Program."

When asked what happens next, Stirling said he isn't sure.

"I have no clue," he said. "I couldn't understand why they'd put a date in the sand you can't live up to."

Stirling said the national program, in alignment with the house rules, would "set the standard for true uniformity for (other jurisdictions) that have yet to come on board."

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

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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