by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission has issued guidelines for TCO2 testing procedures to prevent trainers from using what are commonly referred to as ‘milkshakes' to improve the performance of their horses. Below is the official press release:

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission will begin testing thoroughbred race horses for total carbon dioxide, or TCO2, after approving a policy to conduct the testing at its meeting on June 17.


The commission first voted to implement TCO2 testing during its March meeting. Since that time, commission staff worked to develop the policy, which strictly prohibits the use of agents or substances that elevate a horse's TCO2 level beyond what is naturally present. 


TCO2 in horses is believed to have a performance-enhancing quality by limiting muscle fatigue and increasing endurance. Testing for elevated TCO2 levels in horses will take place at the Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology and Research Lab at West Chester University. 


Horses may be tested at random, with probable cause, or at the discretion of race track stewards or the Horse Racing Commission. Penalties for samples that test positive may include a $1,500 fine, a 30- to 60-day suspension, and loss of purse for a first offense. 


The racing commission partners with the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center on research matters, given its outstanding reputation for developing and executing tests to detect performance-enhancing substances in horses.


Recent breakthroughs include developing tests for the blood-doping agent Erythropoietin, or EPO, and anabolic steroids. Pennsylvania was also the first state to impose restrictions on the use of intra-articular corticosteroids, which are very potent anti-inflammatory agents. 

  • DickHertz

    Let’s just cur through the BS here Ray.

    1.) Pennyslvania will NEVER EVER EVER suspend any trainer for a first offense.
    2.) Putting this policy into the hands of the stewards is stupid given their inadequacies to fairly govern Penn National and Philly Park.
    3.) The Intra-Articular ban is a complete joke and people are still tapping one joint as close as five days.
    4.) Pennsylvania has never called one positive for EPO in thoroughbreds and they fail miserably at testing for EPO because to catch it you need OUT OF COMPETITION TESTING.
    5.) The Commission has done nothing to prevent blocking of nerves for horses
    6.) The Commission still has not implemented pre-race exams for backstretch horses
    7.) The Commission allows people to use forged coggins with only a fine when caught

  • Al

    Sounds like rules are in place in PA, but nobody pays attention or enforces, according to #1 poster? It’s a shame because PA could lead the way to a better horse world. Old habits die hard I suppose. Maybe the next administration will focus on solutions to the problems and capitalizing on slot subsidized opportunities, unlike the current regime.

  • DickHertz

    Al, if only the Commission was as good at enforcing the problems with the game as they are at crafting press releases we’d all be better off. Their press releases are well-written, carefully constructed pieces of hogwash when you cut through the BS they contain. Whoever write them should apply to be the white house press secretary because they know how to BS with the best of ’em.

  • Al

    Why PA state legislators and administration officials permitted all the slot money to flow into the horse racing fund without proper regulation and enforcement in the first place is puzzling? Shouldn’t they have “cleaned up” the sport before they let the cheats get a crack at the big money? Somebody needs to get in there and take over horse racing regulation with a direct line to the Governor, and Senate and House leaders along with the best industry examiners available and of course enough money to build a bigger army than the bad guys. Maybe addressing this milkshaking issue is just the beginning of a new way for PA? One can only hope…….

  • Wingtips

    #4 – Unfortunately, no one in PA government cares. Bigger fish to fry.

  • the watcher

    whoppiee once again Pa. makes a useless jesture can we please start to put the horse 1st a stinkin milkshake will never cause any lasting harm I put a dab of sodium bicarbonate in the water buckets every day to settle their stomach and keepthe pH neutral or at least toward the basic side lets start testing for the blood doping chit that destroys the liver and the kidneys all you need to do is see which damm trainers get a horse move um up for 6months and then poof you never see the horse again I can name specific horses then play the match game & see who trained um this crap is really startin to piss me off the hangman will be at the gallows WAITIN!!!!

  • Al

    So one does more potential long term harm to the horse than the other, EPO and blood doping agents vs. milkshaking. The fact is both are illegal and depriving the betting public from a fair wagering contest along with screwing the other horse connections that are running “clean.” Out of competition testing is the only way to catch the blood dopers, and I agree with poster #6, its rampant and probably killing horses after extended periods of doping. Where is PA on out of competition exams and blood tests?

  • DickHertz

    I really wish Ray would do a follow up and ask some tough questions of the PA Racing Commission about this policy. Just putting this press release out there allows everyone to think the Commission did something good when in reality this policy is comparable in teeth to the PNGI’s anti-slaughter policy. I

  • Equine Avenger

    The Watcher – Are you kidding me?

    Oral solutions of sodium bicarbonate are given prior to racing in an effort to help their blood remove acid produced during exercise. This would theorectically increase endurance and performance. Therefore, milkshaking is infact a performance enhancer.

    The flip side of that coin is the fact that the use of sodium bicarbonate on a regular basis is also absolutely harmful. Sweating endurance horses actually tend to become less and less acidic over time as they exercise. Giving these horses “milkshakes” before racing would tend to make their metabolic problems much worse and would eventually lead to a lesser version of an individuals god given talents and abilities.

    The use of baking soda is somewhat similar to the constant use of Clenbuterol. Eventually the usage is going to catch up with the patient. It may help with management of airway problems at first, but good research has shown that chronic use of clenbuterol slowly decreases performance in horses.

    It will be interesting to see how a certain high winning percentage barn at Fair Hill performs from here on out.

  • Still Asleep

    I do agree with the watcher, this is not the most important illicit happening in racing, there are bigger problems that are a detriment to the horse, some natural substances to reduce fatigue are not what they should be going after. Testing is very expensive for this, I feel the amount of money could be used to combat more damaging to the horse drugs than baking soda. I personally feel that a lot of injuries from a race are fatigue related, and that possibly the use of anti alkalizing substances could be a benefit to the well being and soundness of the horse.

  • the watcher

    you guys got the right idea, but I didn’t say use milkshakes I said sodium bicarbonate is useful with a dab in their water in the morning & my point is it won’t kill them like the doping agents will for sure it would be like you taking a tum for heartburn the other comment was also correct this is a misdirection tactic away from the real issue stop the hard core drugs mabe the races won’t be run as fast but all will run slower less pounding on the front legs the tracks should be deeper with more cushion too Charles Town does a good job with that only problem there is the tighter turns back in the ninetys we raced and trained 1 there he was sound as a dollar oh a dollar back then lol even he got a little heat in the joint if he trained as often as on a mile oval there is more g-force on the legs in the turns any way I don’t care how fast give the horse some cushion time is meaningless

  • the watcher

    still asleep your damm skippy you got it exactly

  • Hertz (by the way, your family charges way too much for your rental cars): do you think the attitude in PA is based on budget constraints or lack of will, or both?

  • DickHertz

    Barry – in this order:

    1.) The Commission at all costs wants to avoid court and getting sued and therefore have a Laissez Faire approach to racing and their regulation of it.
    2.) Lack of intellect and direction from the Racing Commission. Most are appointed positions and many do not know the difference between a donkey and a t-bred.
    3.) Lack of desire from the HBPA to clean up the product. Why don’t the horseman (HBPA) come to an agreement with the Commission for stiffer penalties for drug positives? It’s hard to get sued when both the horseman and the Commission are on the same page.

  • HBPA is the most pro-medication outfit in racing. They have never gotten it and they never will get it.

  • Ruffian

    Legislating policy is one thing, and as everyone seems to agree here, actually enforcing it is the ongoing problem, whether it’s lack of resources or will. You take away steroids and other candy, and the gyp trainers will always find some other super secret sauce to use, and for which there is no testing. In truth, hopped horses aren’t the only problem; having watched many races in PA, I’d like to be a fly on the wall in the judges/stewards’ room if they ever actually studied and did something about the boat rides that occur on a daily basis. The PHA is home to a rider who should have been given a lifetime ban for admitting to officials that he held a horse. “Fair” meets are more honest.

  • joe

    Post 3: This is a sobering example of Penn National B.S.:

    July 15, 2008
    “Pen National Gaming Impliments Equine Health and Safety Initiatives”

    High paid lawyers wrote that piece to make the company look good while promising nothing. Worth googling!

  • Al

    The head of the national HBPA reigns from Penn National so if #15 is correct, what’s an honest horseman to do? PA racing may indeed be on par with the State Fair circuit, sort of like the circus clowns! Blame not only the racing officals but the crooked horse trainers, owners, jockeys, agents, horseman organizations and vets that have found refuge in PA having been present since the beginning.

  • DickHertz

    I’ll finish Ray’s heading.

    PA Horse Racing Commission to begin Milkshake Testing IN STAKES RACES ONLY.

  • ryan driscoll

    The entire Penn racing program is based upon “Honor Among Thieves”. A bunch of unwritten rules among the horsemen. And, casino management and a racing com. with their heads buried in the sand.

  • DickHertz

    Ryan Driscoll you hit the nail right on the head.

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