Kentucky racetracks applaud new medication regulations

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky’s Thoroughbred racetracks support new medication reforms passed this week by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The commission voted Monday to begin the gradual phase-out of the anti-bleeding medication Lasix from stakes races conducted in Kentucky.

The plan calls for the elimination of race day Lasix in all two-year old races in the state in 2020, and extends the ban to all stakes races in 2021.

With the commissison’s actions, Kentucky becomes the first state to initiate a phaseout of the race-day use of the drug.

Other regulations approved include extending the withdrawal time for the administration of corticosteroids from 7-to-14 days pre-race; extending the withdrawal time for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) from 24-to-48 hours pre-race; and eliminating the use of bisphosphonates in racing and in horses younger than four-years old.

The commission also approved a requirement that 14-days of medical records must be presented at the time a horse is entered in a race in Kentucky.  Trainers must maintain a clear and accurate record of any treatment administered to their horses, and all medical records will be transferred to each subsequent owner and trainer.

Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs all support the reforms.

“The welfare of our human and equine athletes is the sport’s top priority, and we thank the KHRC for making these reforms a reality,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “These changes provide Kentucky racing with the tools to make our facilities safer and to protect the integrity and longevity of a sport we love so much.”

“Our entire industry has a responsibility to implement best practices for the care of our racehorses,” said Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “The passage of these important and meaningful reforms is an important step to further advance animal welfare and safety practices in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

The proposal now moves to the governor’s office for approval.  Governor Andy Beshear could approve it immediately under emergency regulation rules or use the standard legislative review process, which could take several months.

The medication reforms come in the wake of growing public criticism of the sport after a series of horse racing deaths and injuries beginning at Santa Anita a year ago.  As more and more of the general public took notice of the harsh reality of the sport, it gave new ammunition to activists who believe horse racing is cruel and should be outlawed.

Others say among the root causes is the over-use of drugs that make horses run faster and mask injuries.  There has even been criticism from within the industry over its lack of uniform safety standards for horses and jockeys.

Kentucky’s racetracks think the action this week by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission demonstrates an unprecedented unity among the state’s Thoroughbred racing associations and a commitment to continue moving forward on initiatives that further strengthen safety and integrity standards.

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