By: Andrew Eddy
The Australian Trainers’ Association has called for Racing Australia to finalise a national approach to the end altrenogest saga, claiming a simmering disquiet from participants is threatening to boil over on the issue.
In a letter to its members this week to update them on the situation, the ATA chief executive Andrew Nicholl urged RA to use its December 6 board meeting to end the uncertainty about the use of the drug to control the cycle of mares, given there are vastly different rules currently in use in NSW and Victoria.
Racing Victoria banned the use of altrenogest products such as Regu-Mate at the start of the new season after it was found to produce traces of anabolic steroids (trenbolone) during prohibited substance analysis.
But Racing NSW found the traces were so slight as to be inconsequential so implemented a local rule in order to avoid future trenbolone positives.
Nicholl said the call for action followed an extraordinary meeting of the RA board earlier this month to review the issue.
Earlier this week, Caulfield trainer Mick Price called for the reinstatement of altrenogest as a substance to be used on in-season mares, claiming a health and safety risk to participants and horses.
In Victoria, trainers have been advised the use of progesterone injections is legal to help control a mares’ cycle but the ATA said such treatments do not work with the certainty of altrenogest.
“The position of the ATA in general is that we would like to see the altrenogest product allowed and to be used in Australia,” Nicholl said on Tuesday.
“What we do also say is that the rule has to be put in the right manner and the right way. There is an answer somewhere in between with what Racing NSW have done and what Racing Australia is endeavouring to do.
“Racing NSW – have they jumped the gun a little bit? You could potentially say they have. They made a decision up there to look after the trainers in their own state.
“The position of the ATA is that we support the evolution of our industry. We support the pragmatist view. We need to look carefully at the situation with some of these therapeutics and medicines.
“The traditionalists will look at this and say ‘there are trace elements of anabolic steroids’ but there is a lot of scientific evidence that will say that it is in such minute levels to be inconsequential.
“So, we say let’s look at the benefit of industry to horse, to person and let’s weigh that up against our traditional position.
“We think there is a way home and we are hopeful that the board members of RA will ultimately arrive at that position.”
Nicholl said the RA board received numerous submissions on the issue and were ready to move forward.
“It was unanimously agreed that RA would appoint independent experts to draw together the relevant arguments, and provide the board with a paper which (largely) provides a commentary on the clinical and scientific aspects associated with the use of the altrenogest-based products,” he said.
“We understand that panel will include two persons, both likely qualified veterinarians. One each will be sought from Victoria and New South Wales.
“Sadly, as this matter drags on, the anecdotal evidence continues to build from our interaction with trainers, confirming the absence of this product is significantly affecting stable life, horses and race-day performance across a wide cross section of participants.”