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Racing panel makes rule changes on drugs

by Michael R. Wickline | December 11, 2020 at 2:04 a.m.

The Arkansas Racing Commission on Thursday approved proposed changes to rules that would prohibit the use of clenbuterol or any other beta2-agonist on thoroughbreds within 60 days of a race at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.

Commission Chairman Alex Lieblong of Conway said he thinks that clenbuterol has been an abused drug and "hopefully [these proposed rule changes] will go a long way in leveling the playing field and getting everybody where they understand it is a level playing field."

The amended rules would add clenbuterol and other beta2-agonists, which are bronchodilators, to the list of drugs tested prior to a race. Any horse testing positive for clenbuterol and the other listed drugs would not be eligible to start a race at Oaklawn Park until it subsequently tests negative in a way acceptable to the stewards.

The rule changes also would provide for testing for those drugs in claimed horses. If a horse tests positive for those drugs after a claim, the successful claiming owner may void the claim under this proposal.

"At Oaklawn, if you claim a horse, a successful claimant would have the right to have that horse tested under that rule and avoid the claim if the horse came back positive for clenbuterol," Skip Ebel, an attorney representing Oaklawn, told the commission.

"As Commissioner [Steve] Landers has noted, someone can claim a horse at another track that doesn't have a clenbuterol prohibition out of state and bring that one to Oaklawn," Ebel said. "The way things are now, it would be that owner's decision as to whether he would have that claimed horse, like he claimed at Churchill, and Fairgrounds or wherever, tested before he raced at Oaklawn. If the horse races at Oaklawn on Feb. 1 or after opening day and thereafter and tested positive for clenbuterol ... [in violation of the 60-day rule], that is going to be a positive."

Ebel said Landers questioned whether there needs to be a mandatory rule for testing in these cases.

"If that is to be discussed, the only thing I would say we need to do is to bring in the [Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association] representatives and have a discussion, let you hear their point of view on that issue," he said.

The 16 proposed rule changes adopted Thursday were developed by the Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, Oaklawn and the stewards, said Byron Freeland, an attorney for the Racing Commission.

The rule changes are largely "kind of a national trend" based on rule changes in other states, he said.

The proposed changes also would reduce the maximum level of Lasix administration from 500 milligrams to 250 milligrams unless the official veterinarian approves a dose up to 500 milligrams. Lasix is a diuretic that is used to control pulmonary bleeding in racehorses.

The changes also would allow Oaklawn to conduct Lasix-free 3-year-old races so those horses could be eligible to accumulate Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks points, and Lasix-free stakes races as necessary for such races to remain eligible for graded status.

The amended rules also would define the only permissible riding crops as the 360 Gentle Touch riding crop, Pro-Cush riding crop or other similar riding crops approved by the stewards.

Another proposed rule would add exercise riders to the list of people required to wear safety vests when riding horses at Oaklawn.

Jeanette Milligan, executive director of Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Wednesday in an email to Racing Commission Director Smokey Campbell that association President "Bill Walmsley wanted me to let you know, and I quote, 'Arkansas HBPA does not endorse every proposed rule change, however, we do NOT.. have any objections to these changes.'"

Freeland said the commission's proposed rule changes won't go into effect until after they have been reviewed by the Legislative Council's Administrative Rules Subcommittee. The subcommittee is scheduled to meet Wednesday and the proposed changes are on its agenda.

The changes also would prohibit shockwave therapy and other similar treatments on horses on the grounds of Oaklawn Park; bar the equipment for shockwave therapy and other similar treatments in the stables at Oaklawn; and ban horses that have received such treatments from racing at Oaklawn for a period of 30 days after the treatment.

The proposed rule changes also would allow the commission to collect and test horse hair for drugs and prohibited substances. The commission currently tests blood, urine and saliva of horses at Oaklawn Park, according to commission records.

The proposed rules changes also would make a horse ineligible to race for a period for 14 days following an intra-articular injection and would require the trainer to maintain a complete record of all such injections.

They also would require trainers and veterinarians to keep records of all medical treatments administered to horses, and to make the records available to the commission veterinarian upon request.

"There is not a privilege under Arkansas law for veterinary records," Freeland told the commission.

"It is not like your medical record for a person. A lot of states have a veterinary privilege, but Arkansas does not," he said.

The proposed changes would require horses to be stabled on the grounds of Oaklawn Park for at least 72 hours prior to a race. If a horse has not been stabled on Oaklawn grounds for 72 hours, it couldn't start a race unless the owner/trainer gets the permission of the racing secretary.

The proposed amended rules also would require a horse that has not run for a period of six months or more to be examined and approved for racing by the trainer's practicing veterinarian. The commission veterinarian performed these duties in the past. The proposed changes also would set a required number of workouts prior to entering a race for horses that have not raced in six months or more.

The amended rules would allow a horse to enter a race if it is on the official starter's or veterinarian's list; horses would remain ineligible to start a race if it is on a starter's or veterinarian's list at race time. Thus, a horse could enter a race while on the starter's or veterinarian's list, but could not start if the horse is not removed from the list prior to the race.

The proposed changes would allow entries coupled because of common ties such as ownership or trainers to race in the same race if approved by the racing secretary and stewards, and would establish a procedure for a starting preference in races that overfill.

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