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US racing to finally move in the right direction?

Potentially a huge story this. American racing has serious issues in a lot of areas - drugs, broadcast rights, not enforcing penalties nationwide, wagering margins... but now it seems there might be a body prepared to start doing something about it.

The end of racing's drug addiction?

In five weeks, 20 or so of the best 3-year-old race horses in America will go into the starting gate and vie for the sport's greatest jewel, the Kentucky Derby trophy. And every one of them will be drugged.

At least that's a very safe bet. Since 2006, every horse that has raced in the Derby has had a needle stuck in them before the race and been treated with Lasix, not to mention what other sort of legal and illegal chemical cocktails their veterinarians might have loaded them up with. That's 99 Derby horses, 99 drugged Derby horses.

This is, of course, insanity, but insanity usually prevails in racing because the game lacks leadership and a backbone.

That may be about to change. Racing Commissioners International, an organization that, almost out of nowhere, has started to make a lot of noise about a lot of important things. (This is the same group that called for a lifetime ban of bad-boy trainer Rick Dutrow). RCI put out a press release earlier this week calling on the racing industry and member regulators to embrace a strategy to phase out drugs and medication in horse racing. If that were to happen, the U.S. would finally be back in line with the rest of the world. Canada is the only other major racing country that allows the use of race-day drugs.

"Today, over 99% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70% of Standard-bred racehorses have a needle stuck in them four hours before a race," RCI's new chair, William Koester, Chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission, said in a statement. "That just does not pass the smell test with the public or anyone else except horse trainers who think it is necessary to win a race. I'm sure the decision makers at the time meant well when these drugs were permitted, however this decision has forced our jurisdictions to judge threshold levels as horsemen become more desperate to win races and has given racing a black eye."


One can only hope it starts levelling the playing field internationally, and purifying the breed. If horses aren't conformed well enough to race, then perhaps they shouldn't be racing...

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