New York tightens rules on painkilling medications

The New York Gaming Commission on Monday formally adopted new rules that will prevent horsemen from administering more than one regulated painkilling medication to a horse within four days of a race.

The commission adopted the rules on a unanimous voice vote after little discussion. Under the new rule, a horse can be administered one regulated painkilling medication, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), up to 48 hours prior to a race, but any other administrations of a different NSAID would be prohibited within 96 hours of the race.

The rules are similar to new regulations regarding the multiple use of NSAIDs that have been recommended by national racing bodies studying the use and effects of therapeutic medications. The rules adopted by the NYGC were modeled on recommendations that were meant to address "stacking," or the use of multiple NSAIDs in the days leading up to the race in order to get a higher degree of painkilling effect while still testing under the regulatory thresholds for each individual drug.

Regulators began examining new rules to deal with stacking after tightening up the regulatory thresholds for a number of legal painkillers over the past 10 years. That has led to concerns that some horsemen would try to achieve higher painkilling effects while evading the new regulatory limits by using multiple legal painkillers within the recommended withdrawal time for each drug.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved proposed rules that would allow claims to be voided if a horse bleeds visibly from the nostrils during or after a race or if the horse is determined to be lame following the race. The proposed rules would expand the number of reasons a claim could be voided under New York rules, which already allow for a claim to be voided if a horse dies or is vanned from the track.

The new rules, which now go to a 30-day public comment period, would allow the claimant to void the claim following the race if an examination by a state vet concludes that the horse is suffering from Level 2 lameness, which is the same standard that is used to place a horse on the vet's list. Horses on the vet list are prohibited from racing until they are cleared by a regulatory veterinarian.