Will horsemen winning the California battle lead to losing the Washington war?

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons
If proponents are ever successful in passing federal legislation to turn drug testing in American thoroughbred racing over to an offshoot of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, they might have California’s trainers to thank.

The argument that U.S. racing’s existing rules are a hodgepodge was reinforced Thursday by the California Horse Racing Board’s further delay in implementing the third-party race-day administration of the anti-bleeding drug furosemide. The policy has been in place in New York and Kentucky without issue after initial miscues. Other states and tracks also have followed suit.

But the California Thoroughbred Trainers group balks, asking what if there’s an error?

That opposition helped convince the CHRB to delay implementation of the policy there on Thursday.

How much does it matter who the vet is that administers a furosemide shot? Those trainers better believe it matters enough to give valuable ammunition to a movement at the federal level (though still a longshot) that the trainers probably see as far more dangerous than letting a state vet give the Lasix shot.

If this were a battle over whether furosemide is eliminated, that’s another debate entirely. And, truth be told, the California trainers probably see this as a first step toward that end. But that hasn’t been the case in New York. Or in Kentucky, where repeated attempts to eliminate furosemide have been turned back. The politics – and science – of that are more prickly.

It’s also different than the Kentucky fight over Keenelend Race Course’s request to card races under international medication rules (namely no race-day furosemide) as Gulfstream Park is doing. Horsemen can argue that would create a difference in Kentucky’s rules from what’s in place in other states (the Gulfstream decision is a track decision, not a state rule change). While horsemen may be wasting political capital fighting that “international” rule proposal as well, they at least have consistency in America on their side.

But California avoiding third-party furosemide administration, at this point, makes the state pretty much an outlier.

In the overall scheme of the American medication war, the battle over who gives the furosemide shot would appear to be – and in Kentucky and New York has proven to be – very small. This could be winning a battle that leads to losing the war.

(An aside: The initial complications in Kentucky followed one of the great quotes I ever got from a trainer. In a Courier-Journal story that also appeared at USA Today, trainer Wayne Catalano said he wasn’t worried about the new rule that was about to start in 2012. “I’m sure they’ll do it right. Any babbling idiot can give Lasix.”)

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