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Monday, June 23, 2008

Big Brown's Part Owners Pledge Drug-Free Stable After October 1st

Here's a statement issued today by International Equine Acquisitions Holdings (IEAH), the partnership that is part owner of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. The statement comes on the heels of a Congressional hearing held Thursday in Washington DC in which House committee members were highly critical of lax drug policies (among other things) in US horse racing.

This is the first announcement of this sort that has been issued, although there are probably racing stables and/or trainers who have similar policies without stating them. Remember that medication rules vary by state. For many years, New York had a much tougher medication policy than other states. Today, it is legal to race horses on steroids and other medications in most states.

The Jockey Club has been promoting a nation-wide ban on steroids by the end of this year, by the issuance of a model rule that would be adopted by individual states. They also have issues a model rule change outlawing any traction devices or toe grabs on front shoes. However, no one has the power to force a state to change its drug or horseshoe regulations.

From IEAH's statement:

"In an effort to re-build confidence and the integrity to the great sport of Thoroughbred horse racing in North America, IEAH Stables is proud to announce effective October 1 all horses in training and racing in IEAH silks will run only with Lasix. No other medication, drugs, or steroids will be administered.

"While regulatory standards and indeed legislation may be required to resolve most of the controversial issues surrounding our sport, we believe our announcement today is a step in the right direction. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first racing stable in North America to make this commitment. We encourage others to follow our lead.

"We have selected an effective date of October 1 as the official "free-of-medication" withdrawal date because our horses should be clear of all substances by that time. As of October 1, we will request all tracks at which our horses run to perform pre-race and post-race testing at our expense. These procedures have proven effective under racing conditions outside North America.

"Moreover, in the interest of fairness to the wagering public, we will request and strongly urge that race programs include data indicating which horses will run with medication, which will run free of medication. The programs should also indicate which owners/trainers decline to divulge this information.

"As a further test of our commitment, beginning October 1, if any of our runners test positive for medication other than Lasix, we pledge to donate our share or purse money to charities related to thoroughbred horse racing. We will specify those charitable organizations at a later date.

"We believe this change is for the betterment of our sport. In the long run, it will benefit all involved in the game -- the tracks, horsemen and most of all the fans."

(end quote)

(Note: Lasix, the one drug that IEAH says it will allow, is a diuretic anti-bleeding medication.)

An interesting footnote to this story is that Benny the Bull, owned by IEAH, won the Golden Shaheen, a tough international race in Dubai this fall. Dubai racing has a zero tolerance for medication and the Dutrow-trained horse managed to win impressively in spite of the drug ban, international travel, and searing desert heat, as did 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin.

IEAH's October 1 deadline means that their horses, if entered, would not run on medication for the 2008 Breeders Cup to be held in California later that month.

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