Horse Racing Coverage

Aug 27, 2012 9:28 PM

Regulation To Safeguard Horses Hits Snag In Kentucky

FRANKFORT. (AP) - A proposed regulation that would allow only government veterinarians to administer race-day drugs to horses in Kentucky hit a snag Monday when lawmakers balked.

State Rep. Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat whose district is in the heart of Kentucky's thoroughbred region, said disagreements within the horse industry over the controversial proposal concerns her.

"I know that sometimes that's the tool used to throw a wrench in the middle of an engine to make it quit working," she said. "I believe this reg does need to have some fine tuning."

The Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations voted 19-1 to find the proposed regulation deficient, which leaves its fate uncertain. It was unclear if Gov. Steve Beshear will use his executive authority to implement the regulation.

Under the regulation, veterinarians employed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would be the only ones allowed to administer drugs to horses on days that they're racing. The goal is to prevent horses from getting an unfair advantage in races by being administered performance-enhancing drugs.

The regulation that got derailed on Monday also would have set lower amounts of some other medications, including anti-inflammatory drugs, that could be given to horses within days before they race.

State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the regulation would be a model for other horse racing states and should be implemented.

"I want to encourage Gov. Beshear to use his authority as governor to go ahead and implement these regulations," Thayer said.

Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson had no immediate comment.

Monday's debate could be a precursor to another that could be even more controversial. Lawmakers will soon consider an a regulation that would institute a race-day ban on the anti-bleeding drug furosemide in some of the state's biggest races, including the Kentucky Derby

In what has become a hotly debated issue, proponents say furosemide, which is marketed as Lasix and Salix, should be used because it prevents horses' lungs from bleeding, which sometimes happens when they're racing. Opponents contend the drug is a performance-enhancer that should be banned.

Some thoroughbred owners and trainers have voiced dire warnings about the potential of blood spurting from horses' noses if the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission institutes a race-day ban on the drug.

Several veterinarians voiced similar warnings in urging the racing panel not to impose the ban that they said would endanger not just horses but also jockeys who could be hurt if the animals suffer pulmonary hemorrhages and collapse during races.

Those worries were voiced in June, a week before the Horse Racing Commission approved the proposal that would phase out race-day use of furosemide in graded or listed stakes races. If upheld, Kentucky would be the first state to take action against the drug, which is banned internationally.

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.

Opponents contend the ban would put Kentucky at a competitive disadvantage if other states continue to allow furosemide.

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

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