Pennsylvania to suspend horses with positive tests

In a rule aimed at improving integrity in the state, horses with Class 1, 2, or 3 positives or high TCO2 readings will be banned from racing in Pennsylvania for as much as 90 days.

by Dave Briggs

A new rule suspending horses with Class 1, 2 or 3 positive tests from racing in Pennsylvania is the latest in the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission’s (PHRC) efforts to improve integrity. The new rule, approved Friday, goes into effect Oct. 1.

Horses with positive tests for Class 1 or 2 drugs will be “ineligible to race for a period of 90 days from the date of confirmation of the positive split sample,” the rule states. Horses with a Class 3 positive or a high TCO2 reading will be banned from racing in the state “for a period of 30 days from the date of confirmation of the positive split sample.”

The rule is also reciprocal, meaning Pennsylvania can ban horses from racing that received Class 1, 2 or 3 positives or high TCO2 readings in other jurisdictions.

“Any horse which receives a positive test or is declared positive for prohibited substances from a jurisdiction outside of Pennsylvania for a Class 1, 2, 3 medication/drug or high blood gas reading shall be placed on the judges/stewards list,” the rule states.

Brett Revington, the bureau director of standardbred racing for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, told HRU on Friday the new rule, “adds another level of accountability to the trainers and owners. We thought it was important to address our integrity issues.”

Revington said the rule is also intended to have horse owners be, “a little more mindful, diligent and selective about who they are choosing to train their horses.”

He said the rule was modelled after one in effect in Ontario.

“I was familiar with the rule from Ontario. They’ve had it in place for a number of years,” Revington said.

In Pennsylvania, revenue from slots at racetracks greatly enhance purses and politicians frequently are looking to cut the industry’s share. Taking a harder stance on integrity helps protect the industry’s share of slot revenue, Revington said.

“(The politicians) are happy that we are being proactive on a number of new initiatives,” said Revington, adding that all industry partners in Pennsylvania supported the initiative to suspend horses from racing.

“We’ve had 100 per cent support from our commission, our stakeholders and horsemen’s groups. They are all 100 per cent behind it,” Revington said. “It definitely helps and hopefully we’ve got a few new pieces in place and we are moving in the right direction.

“It’s been a really pleasant surprise to get the cooperation internally from the Department of Agriculture… We are all pulling the same way right now and that’s very good to see.”

Revington said the rule can’t take effect until Oct. 1 because it has to be publicized first.

“We can’t start until we publicize it in the Pennsylvania bulletin, so it will begin October 1,” he said.