TOM LaMARRA, reporting for The Blood-Horse reports:
The National Uniform Medication Program wasn’t on the agenda at the recent American Horse Council convention, but progress on that front was addressed during forums and in conversations among attendees.
State-by-state adoption of model medication rules and the companion multiple medication violation penalty system continues around the country.
During the AHC National Issues Forum June 24 in Washington, D.C., New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association president Rick Violette said he’s optimistic about the industry despite a declining foal crop and decreases in pari-mutuel handle. He noted the earlier banning of anabolic steroids on race day, as well as progress on racehorse aftercare and the National Uniform Medication Program as reasons for optimism.
“There are really good things going on in racing, but we forget about them or leave them in mid-sentence,” Violette said. “Eighty-eight percent of national handle is committed to (uniform medication rules). There are a few major racing states that need a kick in the butt, but we’re light years ahead of where we were.”
Violette suggested not enough is being done in the industry to show progress on the medication front, and also hinted at the belief by some that individuals in the industry may have helped push the controversial undercover barn investigation performed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals last year.
“What has got to stop is this railing against the industry,” Violette said. “We constantly stop to shoot ourselves in the foot. It’s not OK to constantly go out there and aid and abet the enemy. (Industry) leaders need to pull together and march to the same drum.”
Scott Wells, president and general manager of Remington Park Racing & Casino in Oklahoma, said he has spoken to owners who pay $1,800 in veterinary bills every time their horse races. Though the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission has thus far opted not to pursue the National Uniform Medication Program, Wells urged every jurisdiction to do so.
“That’s just a crime,” Wells said of expensive vet bills for pre-race medication. “Owners end up leaving the sport. People will feel better about owning horses when they don’t feel that they are being beaten by cheaters.”
Another forum panelist, American Association of Equine Practitioners president Dr. Jeff Blea, also commented on uniform medication.
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been,” he said. “It’s good for the industry and good for the horse.”
These people are incredibly, redundantly unbelievable. We have been listening to this rhetoric for more than a decade. And it was going on long before we started watching them. Meetings. Studies. Databases. Talk and more talk. But no forward movement.
What surprises me is how surprised they are that absolutely no one believes them. Why should we? If you were to handicap this bunch getting a win of any kind in cleaning up the horse racing industry, you would have to pick them as no hopers. If you could even could get a bet on. No doubt they would scratch before they got to the gate. Just like they did with the plan to race two-year olds Lasix free in the Breeders Cup.
We would love to believe them. Have tried to believe them. And have given up.
But light years ahead? Really? Closer than they have ever been? In what way for heaven’s sake?
I am sure the industry would love for people to stop mentioning the Peta/Asmussen horse abuse accusations exposed in the New York Times in March of this year. So, does this mean that horse racing is done with this?
What other horse-related sport would act in such a cavalier fashion in the face of such cruelty, or even a hint of it? Oh, yes. The Tennessee Walking Horse soring folks. They can give horse racing a run for its money.
Featured Image: Nehro, center, the 2011 Derby runner-up, died last year. PETA recorded discussions of his foot problems. Credit Rob Carr/Getty Images