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California horsemen fear loss of $1.5 million in purses
Friday, August 19, 2005 - from the California Horse Racing Board

Sacramento, CA --- At a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board, the staff reported that Capitol Racing, the former operator of a harness meet at Cal-Expo Raceway, has not redistributed to horsemen, in the form of purses, some $1.5 million, as previously ordered by the Board in connection with a dispute over promotional funds.
Board member Richard Shapiro asked the deputy attorney general to review the matter, and determine the proper recourse for the Board.

A representative of the California Harness Horsemen’s Association expressed concern that since Capitol Racing has ceased operations in California, any eventual determination that money is owed them could result in horsemen “holding a fistful of tickets they can’t cash.”

Shapiro, noting the Board still has $2 million in bonds and letters of credit from Capitol Racing, reassured harness horsemen that “there is ample security to pay for any shortfall.”

The Medication Committee also approved for public notice a proposed regulation to prohibit anyone within the Board’s jurisdiction from permitting or causing “an animal under his control or care to suffer any form of cruelty, mistreatment, neglect, or abuse…” Persons suspected of such conduct are now prosecuted under a more general rule relating to conduct detrimental to horseracing. They may also be prosecuted under criminal statutes, but a specific rule should help the Baord more effectively deal with anyone involved in cruelty towards horses.

Dr. Jensen described the committee’s continuing review of penalties and drug classifications recommended by the Racing Medication and Test Consortium (RMTC), which can be adapted to comply with California’s laws and needs.

The RMTC recommended penalties include a minimum one-year suspension and $10,000 fine for the most serious offenses involving “stimulant and depressive drugs that have the highest potential to affect performance and that have no generally accepted medical use in the racing horse.” Repeat violations could lead to permanent loss of license.

Fermin provided an update on legislation (AB 52) that will give the Board authority to conduct testing for total carbon dioxide levels (TCO2), to fine and suspend violators, as well as redistribute purses, and take over responsibility for a successful testing program that the racetracks have been conducting for the last year in an effort to crack down on “milkshakes,” or the illegal administration of excess alkalizing substances in order to enhance the performance of horses in races.

“The bill passed the Senate floor by a 32-3 vote this morning, and we hope it will be on the governor’s desk by the end of next week,” Fermin said.

Chairman Harris took the opportunity to thank the racing associations and fairs that have participated in the TCO2 testing program, adding “we hope to develop a hybrid program and still have the tracks involved.”

Fermin said she would meet with racing executives to discuss continuation of their detention programs. She also said procedures are being set up to allow owners and trainers to request that a split sample be taken for TCO2 testing -- at their own expense -- at the same time the primary sample is collected. Laboratories in Ohio and Iowa have agreed to do the split-sample testing.

Shapiro added, “in our continuing enforcement effort, we should be looking at all medication issues in order to stop unfair practices by certain trainers.” He said he would be seeking input from trainers, veterinarians, racing executives, and others in the effort to “level the playing field.”

Harris stated that he was concerned that joint injections of corticosteroids may be overused on horses in training, particularly shortly in advance of a race, and that the Board needed to more carefully monitor this issue. Two trainers who attended the Medication Committee meeting -- Jenine Sahadi and Laura de Seroux -- also expressed concern about corticosteroids. They believe some trainers routinely have horses injected after they claim (purchase) a horse -- without knowing whether that horse had been recently injected by its previous connections.

The Medication Committee strongly urged that a computerized database be created to record the daily reports being submitted by racetrack practicing veterinarians, and that the reports be more closely monitored by the Board than has been the past practice. Shapiro expressed his intention to enlist industry support in the creation of such a database to keep track of corticosteroid treatments and other critical medical information.