Australia Cuts Cobalt Thresholds in Half: Blood-Horse 7/7/16

By: Blood-Horse Staff

The allowable levels of cobalt in Australian racehorses has been cut in half, according to an announcement July 7 by Racing Australia, the country’s national racing industry body.

The urine threshold for cobalt will become 100 micrograms per liter effective Sept. 1, down from 200 μg/L (micrograms per liter). A plasma threshold of 25 μg/L will also be implemented Sept. 1.

Cobalt is a naturally occurring element found in vitamin B12 but research has also shown cobalt chloride may have a performance-enhancing effect by increasing the number of red blood cells. The dietary requirment for cobalt in horses is very low, less than 0.05 parts per million and there has not been any research showing a need to supplement horses to address a deficiency.

Cobalt in higher levels is also toxic and can cause profuse sweating, muscle trembling, aimless circling, and horses dropping to their knees or collapsing, according to research done by Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director for Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Regulators in the U.S. started seeing high levels of cobalt in racehorses in 2013, and Australia was hit hard by a cobalt scandal last year that resulted in disciplinary action against leading trainers Peter Moody, Brian Kavanagh, and Danny O’Brien. Kavanagh and O’Brien are fighting the charges, while Moody said in March he was leaving he sport for the “foreseeable future” following a six-month ban for the unintentional administration of cobalt.

The significantly lower threshold is more than sufficient to account for a horse’s nutritional requirements for cobalt and vitamin B12, according to a statement from Racing Australia. The plasma standard matches that called for in North America under an Association of Racing Commissioners International model rule.

The regulatory body warned that registered injectable cobalt supplements offer no nutritional advantages because incorporation of cobalt into the vitamin B12 molecule occurs within the horse’s gut. It also advised trainers to consult with their veterinarians to ensure any oral supplements only provide the amount of cobalt needed for nutritional requirements and warned to use only nutritional supplements manufactured or marketed by reputable companies.

Other recommendations included:
—administering supplements only at the manufacturer’s recommended dose and frequency of administration,
—avoid the simultaneous use of multiple supplements containing cobalt and vitamin B12,
—avoid administering any products that are inadequately labeled, that make claims to enhance racing performance or to be ‘undetectable’, or which are marketed over the Internet, and
—comply with the one clear day restriction on the injection of any substance prior to racing.