By: Tom Precious

New York racing regulators on Jan. 23 gave preliminary approval to an expansion of equine drug testing and recordkeeping rules, and set a minimum set of penalties to be imposed on trainers and others with repeated equine drug violations.

The decision by the New York Gaming Commission, which now begins a 45-day public comment period, comes in what officials said is a response to allegations by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against trainer Steve Asmussen over treatment of race horses during the 2013 Saratoga Race Course meet.

The equine drug rules come after the racing agency in 2015 cleared Asmussen of the most serious charges of horse mistreatment leveled against him by PETA. The agency did fine the trainer $10,000 for alleged violations of thyroxine treatments.

Among the new regulations given tentative approval Monday are limits on thyroxin. The proposed rule, unless amended after a public comment period, requires that a container of the drug be limited to a single particular horse, be backed up by a written diagnosis and reason for its use and that there be an estimated last date of administration. The commission did change an earlier draft that restricted the drug’s use to a 30-day administration.

That restriction was included in one of the rules that will require no drug be administered unless specifically okayed by an attending veterinarian.

The set of preliminary rules, which are all expected to be given final approval in the months ahead, include a regulation to address exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhages in Thoroughbred racehorses. The rule would require trainers to keep records of serious EIPH incidents, as determined by a one-to-four universal rating system, as well as cases of visible bleeding from a horse’s nose. The records would have to be maintained for four years, and the gaming commission would create a reporting system to track such episodes.

The proposal requires horses with a serious EIPH episode to get an endoscopic exam following their next race or workouts. Information about such incidents would also have to be made available to subsequent owners and trainers of a horse. The board said the rule is needed to address “emerging scientific consensus” that repeated EIPH episodes can be debilitating to a race horse.

In addition, the proposals, given unanimous preliminary approval Monday, include ensuring that samples can be collected from a race horse even if it is not entered in a race or is located on the grounds of a racetrack’ the board called that out-of-competition testing rule an attempt to eliminate illegal drug use “that increase red blood cells, mask pain or increase a horse’s ability to race beyond its natural limits.”

Another new requirement given preliminary approval sets new record-keeping mandates on trainers of medications when a horse is administered anything but anti-ulcer medications. The rule orders that those records be maintained for at least six months.

The board also gave final approval to a new regulation that relaxes current requirements that jockeys obtain permission from racing stewards in order to display any form of advertising. The new rule gives a blanket approval for jockeys to wear advertising pertaining to the Jockeys’ Guild and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

In addition, jockeys will now be able to have their names emblazoned on their pants and helmet, “thereby giving these athletes increased recognition,” according to commission executive director Robert Williams.