Tough new drug policies for racehorses were included in the emergency rules approved Thursday by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.
The changes come as the result of an investigation into almost two dozen deaths at the Aqueduct Race Track during the winter meet. That investigation resulted in a report released at the end of September, which included some revolutionary reforms to make racing safer for the horses and riders.
Changes adopted Thursday included the disclosure of corticosteroid administrations to track officials and potential horse buyers, an expansion of the racing board’s drug test program for thoroughbreds that aren't scheduled to race, the creation of a window after a race where a new owner's purchase of a horse could be voided, and stricter time frames to administer certain drugs that mask injuries to horses.
The changes apply to racing at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga, which are overseen by the New York Racing Association, and Finger Lake Race Track.
Racing Board Chairman John Sabini applauded the board for its unanimous adoption of these new rules, which will be fully implemented in December to give all the entities involved time to comply. Changes to the purchasing of horses, known as claiming, will go into effect next Friday.
He described the new drug policies as the toughest in the country, highlighting the limits on drugs that would potentially mask injuries upon inspection before a race.
The masking of injuries was one of the concerns highlighted by the task force investigating the deaths at Aqueduct, but Sabini stressed there were a variety of conditions at play that combined to cause that grim three-month period.
Following these new rules, the racing board and NYRA will be adopting additional recommendations made by the September report. NYRA’s responsibilities include the creation of an independent veterinary structure whose only priority will be safety and the establishment of a health and safety committee.
The racing board will hire an equine medical director to oversee veterinarians at the state’s racetracks.
At the racing board meeting, Sabini stressed that a lot of the drug policies now being implemented had been endorsed by the board and some corners of the racing industry for years.
He credited the recent report with providing the ammunition to actually make these changes palatable to those formerly opposing them.
New York’s Thoroughbred Horsemen Association and the Jockey Club both voiced support for the new rules and noted that they have a history of advocating these types of changes.