Tampa Bay Downs officials had hoped to have house rules in place for third-party administration of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide when the 2012-13 meeting begins on Dec. 1, but plans were shelved when they realized the policy would not keep private veterinarians out of a horse's stall on race day.
The reason? Florida pari-mutuel racing statute specifically permits the race-day administration of the corticosteroid prednisolone sodium succinate (better known by its trade name Solu-Delta-Cortef), along with other “vitamins, minerals, or naturally occurring substances.”
And many people thought Lasix or adjunct bleeder medications were the only drugs permitted on race-day.
“We had talked with our horsemen near the end of last year's meeting and spent a couple months on this during the summer,” said Peter Berube, Tampa Bay Downs vice president and general manager. “We were prepared to hire a vet (to administer furosemide, or Lasix), until we ran into the obstacle that horses can be administered Solu Delta. We have petitioned (the division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering) to reexamine the rule and amend it so we can bring this in house.”
One thing the track is doing to monitor horses on race day is posting clearly marked “in today” signs for horses scheduled to race. “That way the vets can find the horses easily and security can find them,” Berube said.
But Florida racing rules provide several reasons a veterinarian may enter the stall of a horse racing that day, and apparently there's nothing a racetrack can do about it.
Product information from Pfizer on Solu-Delta-Cortef states the drug is a fast-acting agent that is useful in alleviating lameness from arthritic conditions. Pfizer also claims it is “helpful as supportive therapy in the treatment of stress-induced exhaustion, rattlesnake bites, toxemia, inflammatory ocular conditions and other stress conditions.”
One racetrack veterinarian told the Paulick Report the drug is used as a calming agent and that many practitioners believe it can help prevent heat stroke, though the only research done so far on that subject involves rabbits. Heat stroke is a concern for horses racing in Florida and other Southern states, especially during the spring and summer months.
Changing medication rules in Florida isn't easy because it has to be done legislatively. The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is a branch of state government that merely enforces or interprets existing rules, and the Florida statute concerning medication (Chapter 550.2415) is quite clear on the permitted race-day use of furosemide, Solu-Delta-Cortef and vitamins and minerals.
Because of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering's lack of authority to adapt, tracks in the state have been forced to install house rules in a number of areas related to drug testing and security, including testing for TCO2 overages (better known as milkshaking). That testing is not overseen by the state.
Another strange section of the Florida racing statute is a requirement that a specific method of drug-testing (thin-layer chromatography) be used in screening for Class 4 and Class 5 therapeutic drugs, even though more effective and sensitive methodologies are available. This statute, lobbied for by the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, has effectively handcuffed test labs from reporting positives for some therapeutic drugs, including multiple corticosteroids.
These are the kind of state-by-state statutory or regulatory hurdles that make it extremely difficult for uniform medication or drug testing rules to be applied to the sport.
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