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Racing Medication Meeting

Industry leaders present at racing medication meeting.

October 27, 2012

Generic Racing Photo

The AQHA Racing Conference on Thursday hosted a medication forum from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at host Prairie Meadows’ conference center.

The meeting included informative presentations from a number of industry leaders, including Micah McKinney and Danielle Bryan of Racing Free; Mark Ludwick and Nathaniel McLaren, special investigative agents for Prairie Meadows; Dr. Rick Sams, the director of HFL Laboratory in Lexington, Kentucky; Dr. Dionne Benson, the executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium; Jamie Haydon, from the Jockey Club; and Ed Martin, president of RCI.

The meeting opened with comments from AQHA Executive Director of Racing Trey Buck and Equine Health, Welfare, Integrity and Research Subcommittee chair Phillip Stewart. They touched on medication issues the industry faces, as well as an overview of steps taken by AQHA.

Racing Free’s Danielle Bryan then talked about the program and its mission. The program is designed to promote clean racing and provide a voice for racehorse owners.

The alliance has launched an incentive program for its members. Owners can enroll horses for a $300 per-meet fee. At the conclusion of the meet, a Racing Free horse that wins a race and has a clean drug test will be rewarded with a $1,500 bonus. In addition, the trainer, owner and jockey with the most wins with Racing Free-registered horses will earn bonuses.

The nearly 50-member alliance hopes to promote clean racing and continued research, as well as be a voice for owners with media relations.

“We are not specialists, but we are passionate about this,” Bryan said. “We want to insure our future.”

Mark Ludwick and Nate McLaren gave the next presentations, discussing their roles as investigative agents for Prairie Meadows. Their jobs have them working as deterrents; they work on prevention, education, regulation and investigation.

They are members of the Organization of Racing Investigators, and conduct investigations related to horse racing. Ludwick described how the ORI facilitates communication and intelligence between jurisdictions and states. For example, if investigators notice a trend going on in Iowa, they are able to share this information with colleagues in other states, who know what to watch for.

“We welcome clean and fair horse racing here in Iowa,” Ludwick said.

Dr. Rick Sams is a well-known expert in laboratory testing, and shared an informative history of drug testing, including its origins and how testing has developed to the present.

He explained that crude testing began in the early 1900s, and began in an official capacity in the late 1930s and 1940s.
Testing has changed significantly since it started, from crude tests that involved injecting frogs with horse urine to detect medications, to the sophisticated machines used today that can detect the presence of thousands of substances in a sample.

Trends in testing, Sams said, include enhanced screenings, more uniformity and consolidation of labs, enhanced data analysis and storage, and more international cooperation.

RMTC Executive Director Dr. Dionne Benson touched on that association’s many roles. Among those roles were RMTC’s important job in education and advocacy. Benson also discussed making all laboratories RMTC-accredited and providing a quality assurance program.

The Jockey Club’s Jamie Haydon discussed market research commissioned by The Jockey Club about racing’s fan base.
Not only did research indicate the fan base was shrinking, but it also indicated fan’s greatest concern related to racing was integrity, medications and injuries.

“Every other challenge is secondary,” Haydon noted.

Haydon then went on to point out statistics drawn from more than six years of collected data on medication violations. This demonstrated that only 1.5 percent of trainers in the sport had positive medication tests – indicating that only a small portion of trainers were pushing the boundaries of rules – and of these, a majority of the positives were for overages on pain management medications, such as NSAIDs.

He spoke about The Jockey Club projects, which included guidance to help horsemen on regulation thresholds, encouraging stricter penalties on violators via a point system and encouraging the laboratory accreditation from RMTC.
Ed Martin was the final speaker of the meeting, and spoke passionately about racing’s response to the medication situation.

Trainers, he said, have a responsibility to know what medications their horses are getting, why they are getting them and how it affects the horse. However, the responsibility for violations should extend beyond the trainer.

Martin also discussed the importance of strongly differentiating between minor and major violations. That is – the use of Salix on race day is not “horse doping”.

He encouraged individuals to work at a grass-roots level, working with commissions or, if necessary, state legislatures to get their state to pass the RCI model rules on medication.

“Then the model rule becomes the rule,” he says. “Let’s have one rule, not 38 different rules.”