Horse Racing Coverage

Jul 11, 2012 10:02 PM

Officials: Derby Horses Free Of Potent Painkiller

LOUISVILLE. (AP) - No traces of a powerful painkiller were found in sample testing from horses running in this year's Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, state horse racing regulators said Wednesday.

The state recently began testing race horses for dermorphin, a substance more powerful than morphine. It comes amid a recent an outbreak of positive tests for the substance at Louisiana tracks, resulting in suspensions for several trainers.

Kentucky regulators took that as a sign they need to be vigilant.

"We have not received any intelligence suggesting it has been, or is being used in Kentucky," said Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. "However, the detection of dermorphin in other racing jurisdictions' post-race samples means that Kentucky needs to be testing for it."

Post-race urine samples from five of the 20 Derby horses were tested for the substance, as were samples from four of the Oaks entries, said Dick Brown, a racing commission spokesman. The commission said no dermorphin was detected in the sample testing.

The Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown series, is run on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The Oaks features 3-year-old fillies and is run the day before at the famed track.

The methodology to test for dermorphin recently became available at the laboratory reviewing the samples, Scollay said.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International, a group that recommends medication policy, lists dermorphin among the most harmful substances that might be given to horses. Regulators say the drug has no legitimate use in horses.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium last month urged state racing commissions to be lookout for the drug, which it called a "threat to racing integrity." It said that dermorphin is produced naturally as a skin secretion in certain species of South American frogs, but it also can be produced synthetically.

The notice from the RMTC, dated June 19, said that in a single week 11 horses in Louisiana had tested positive for dermorphin, including thoroughbreds and quarter horses.

The testing for dermorphin is the latest step by Kentucky to take on the drug issue in horse racing.

Last month, Kentucky horse racing regulators approved a ban on the race-day use of an anti-bleeding drug, making it the first U.S. state to take such action. The proposed regulation would phase in the race-day ban on furosemide in graded or listed stakes races, beginning with 2-year-old horses in 2014. The race-day prohibition would apply to 2- and 3-year-old horses competing in those races in 2015. The Kentucky Derby is for 3-year-old horses. In 2016, the ban would apply to any horse entered in graded or listed stakes races in Kentucky.

Furosemide is marketed as Lasix and Salix and is the only medication allowed to be given to horses on race day in the U.S. The drug is used commonly to treat pulmonary hemorrhaging in racehorses. The drug is banned across much of the world because it is considered a performance enhancer.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that veterinary records obtained from New York state racing officials show that I'll Have Another was being treated with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs in the weeks after his win in the Preakness on May 19 and before the Belmont Stakes, which was June 9.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was retired from racing the day ahead of his bid to win the Belmont and become the first Triple Crown champion in 34 years. Trainer Doug O'Neill cited an injury to the colt's left front tendon.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)


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