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Friday, August 08, 2008

Giant Stride for Toe Grab Ban: No Graded Stakes May Be Run at Tracks Allowing Grabs in 2009

You're looking at the foot of a young Thoroughbred racehorse. The toe grab is the dark gray line that you can see from 7 to 5 o'clock on the circular face of the foot/shoe. (file photo)

The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) today announced new eligibility requirements for graded stakes races in the United States.

At its meeting this week in Saratoga Springs, New York, the committee adopted two new eligibility requirements for graded stakes.

1. States or racetracks through house rules must adopt, at a minimum, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) model rule on androgenic anabolic steroids by January 1, 2009 or the date of a state or racetrack’s first graded race in 2009, whichever is later. If a state or racetrack does not adopt the model rule, then their races will lose their graded status. Those races will not be eligible again for grading until the rule is adopted.

2. The committee adopted a requirement for grade eligibility whereby states or racetracks through house rules must adopt the ARCI model rule on toe grabs on front feet by January 1, 2009 or the date of a state or track’s first graded stake in 2009. If the rule is not adopted, then races will lose their graded status. Those races will become eligible for grading once the rule is adopted.

Interpretation: States or tracks that allow toe grabs on horses and/or the use of steroids after January 1, 2009 will lose their ratings on any graded stakes that are run there.

Gray area: There are actually two ARCI model rules, at this point. First is the 2007 ARCI model rule, which says that front toe grabs must be less than 4 mm. This is the rule that was adopted by California last year. But since last week, there is a second proposed ARCI rule  that would limit toe grabs to 2 mm. That rule was sent from the model rules committee to the ARCI Board but I do not believe that it was voted on.

This is masterful politics. If states or tracks don't ban toe grabs, they can't run their big races that bring in big crowds, big name horses, and big handles.

My understanding of this rule until reading the text was that it would apply to the races themselves, but it seems that this is a much, much broader sweep.

This, my friends, is NEWS.

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