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Mar 15, 2013

Up the Backstretch: Truly improving the breed

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

(Sports Network) - The announcement this week of eight states from the Mid- Atlantic and Northeast regions of the country agreeing to have uniform medication and drug testing comes as welcome news to the thoroughbred racing industry.

Without getting into the details of the agreement, the basic idea is to have horses, going from one track to another, all racing under the same protocols. With farms and tracks so close to each other in the area, shipping horses to races is common practice and enhances the competition.

"The largest concentration of racing in the United States on a daily basis is conducted in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Some 18 racetracks operate within a 200-mile radius," said Alan M. Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "Many horsemen race in more than one state and, in some instances, on the same day. There is no region in the country where uniformity is more imperative than in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The horsemen have been asking for this for years, the time has come and we are finally in a position to do it."

All anybody has been asking is that everybody involved in the sport, from gamblers to owners and everyone in between, know that everything is above board and as close to fair as possible.

"The NTRA salutes the many organizations and individuals who worked on this important initiative," Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "The program creates an eminently viable blueprint for national uniformity of medication rules and drug testing, and the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance will do everything in its power to ensure its implementation."

Last year, many thoroughbred owners pledged not to race their 2-year-olds of 2012 with race-day medications, including race-day furosemide. Under the new agreement, Furosemide (Salix) will be the only medication permitted to be administered to a racehorse on race day.

"Our racing industry thrived in a time prior to permitted race-day medications," noted owner Bill Casner in a statement last year. "Horses raced often and consistently. We are a global industry and we are out of step with the rest of the world. Race day medications are a failed experiment and it is time for us to do what is right for our horses and our industry."

Keeping horses healthy and physically fit should be the foundation of thoroughbred racing, as it is with any form of athletic competition. Knowing that the equine athletes are properly cared for enhances the quality of the sport on the track and in public perception.

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