Medication is a hot topic in racing these days, and three trainers said they welcomed a vote by the New York State Gaming Commission on Wednesday to place tight, new restrictions on the use of clenbuterol.
Trainer Chad Brown told Horse Racing Nation he was "happy to hear about it because I don't think it should be used.
"I've been training for 15 years. I've never used clenbuterol one time."
The amendment changes the rules to follow the model proposed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. The rules go into effect statewide, including at all three New York Racing Association tracks – Belmont Park, Saratoga and Aqueduct – on June 2, according to a NYRA news release.
Although "the rule has no bearing on my operation," Brown said, "I just feel like if there's a need for horse to be on clenbuterol for some reason, they probably don't need to be at the racetrack. They probably need to be at the farm. That's always been my view."
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said, "I think it's been a problem for a while. If they're tightening the rules up, it'll be better off for everybody.
"I couldn't tell you the last time I used it. I'm a proponent of it for respiratory. If they could contain it to respiratory – a horse has got a lung infection or that type of stuff. But when you're starting to use it in racing as an anabolic effect, then I'm opposed to that."
Count trainer Mark Hennig as another fan of the change. He was not aware of the details of the amendment when reached by HRN on Wednesday afternoon, but he said, "I wish they'd get rid of it altogether, so I'm all in favor of whatever they're doing. I think it's been an abused medication, if you want to call it that. I don't think they should allow it on the backside."
Hennig acknowledged that clenbuterol has a purpose, "but that purpose was left by horsemen, unfortunately, a long time ago.
"There's people that feed it like candy and blanketly treat all their horses. If they can police it, I wish they would."
The amendment notes that the former rules allowed appropriate use of clenbuterol as a bronchodilator to treat horses with respiratory problems. But, it says, sustained clenbuterol treatment can have a re-partitioning effect on a horse, causing the horse’s body to produce less fat and more muscle. This may create an artificial improvement in the physical condition and race performance of the horse, undermining the integrity and fairness of racing.
The new rule more closely regulates the use of clenbuterol by adding conditions for valid restricted therapeutic use of the drug. It requires the trainer to obtain written approval from the commission of the course of treatment before any clenbuterol is administered to a horse. It also allows the commission to limit the duration and amount of clenbuterol administrations to preclude the repartitioning effect. Based on current medical information, and in the absence of extraordinary reasons, for example, a horse would not be permitted to receive clenbuterol for more than 30 days or for successive courses of treatment.
In addition, trainers will be required to report each clenbuterol administration at the time of treatment and the horse will be placed on the Veterinarian’s List. A horse on the veterinarian’s list is ineligible to enter or participate in any pari-mutuel horse race. A horse cannot be removed from the veterinarian’s list until the horse works out to the satisfaction of the stewards and laboratory testing of biologic samples collected from the horse demonstrate that the repartitioning effects of the drug dissipated. (See the full amendment here.)