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Minutes of Public Meeting - December 19, 2019

Commission Members Present:

Michael Algeo
David Hayden
Ernie Grecco
Clarissa Coughlin
Tom Winebrener
Konrad Wayson

Members Absent:

Tammy Lafferty

Staff Present Representing the Maryland Racing Commission:

J. Michael Hopkins

Executive Director
Eric B. London
Assistant Attorney General

In accordance with the Notice of Public Meeting, as required by §3-302, General Provisions Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, the Maryland Racing Commission (“Commission”) met in open session on December 19, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. at Laurel Park.

Minutes – November 21, 2019

The Commission waived a reading of the minutes of its November 21, 2019 meeting and unanimously voted to approve, amending the date of the December meeting from 2020 to 2019, which was a clerical error.

Maryland Standardbred Race Fund 2020 Race Dates.

The Commission was presented with a request from the Maryland Standardbred Race Fund for its 2020 racing dates at both Rosecroft and Ocean Downs, including a date change from April 19, 2020 to May 24, 2020 at Rosecroft. Hearing no objection, the Commission unanimously approved the request.

TCO2 - Penalties.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins informed the Commission that beginning in the 1990’s, when the Commission first became aware of the “milk shaking” of a horse, the Commission directed the Judges that anyone violating the TCO2 thresholds be sanctioned $2,500.00, suspended for 90 days and the horse be disqualified. Mr. Hopkins commented that at a hearing held in October of 2019 regarding a trainer’s use of TCO2, the Commission reduced the penalty to $1,000.00, suspended the trainer for 30 days, disqualified the horse and restricted the horse from running. Mr. Hopkins further noted that the current ARCI penalty guidelines recommend a $500.00 fine and a 15 day suspension for a first offense. Mr. Hopkins recommended to the Commission to reconsider the current directive to the judges and change it to conform to the Commission’s October decision. Mr. Hopkins advised the Commission that it could still consider any mitigating or aggravating factors in the future and the Commission is not bound by any penalties assessed in the past or future. The Commission unanimously approved changing the directive to the Judges to conform to the October decision. Commissioner Coughlin requested that the Commission perform pre-race blood gas testing at the tracks so that a horse with a high TCO2 reading would not be permitted to race. Mr. Hopkins commented that the current method of post-race testing is more effective, as there were legal challenges to the testing when the testing was performed at the tracks. Mr. Hopkins noted that the current method provides for a controlled laboratory setting, uniform calibration standards and certified technicians to operate the instruments, which has removed virtually all legal challenges to the testing.

Safety and Welfare Directives.

Mr. Hopkins reported that the Safety and Welfare directives discussed at previous meetings were being presented to the Commission for implementation after being discussed with all stakeholders. Mr. Hopkins explained that should the Commission pass the directives, the Commission would be empowering the stewards, veterinarians and staff to carry out and enforce the directives. Mr. Hopkins reviewed each of the following recommendations:

Effective January 1, 2020:

  1. Any horse required to work in order to be removed from a “vets” shall work at least one half mile in .52.0 or better.
  2. If a horse has not run in 45 days, it must have at least 1 published work.
  3. First time starters shall need 3 published works to be eligible to start in a race. 1 work from the gate and 1 work at least a half-mile within 30 days of entry. All first time starters shall have a gate card on file with the Racing Office at entry time.
  4. A horse that has not started in 90 days shall have at least 2 published works, one of at least one half mile, another within 30 days of starting.
  5. Unless waived by the Equine Medical Director, a horse that has been off for more than 150 days shall be required to work 3 times, one in front of a State Veterinarian and have blood samples taken for analysis, one within 30 days of entry and one work of at least one half mile. In addition, the horse shall not be allowed to enter or start until the attending practicing veterinarian signs off that the horse is sound for racing and approval is obtained from the Equine Medical Director.
  6. Trainers shall contact the clocker and provide the name of their horse that is going to work and the distance prior to the horse working. Failure to report to the clocker may result in disciplinary action.
  7. A horse scratched for a medical reason shall not work within 48 hours of being scratched.
  8. Any horse vanned off or put on the vet’s list, during training or racing may not return to training or racing unless the attending practicing veterinarian consults with the Equine Medical Director to discuss the diagnosis of why the horse needed to be vanned off, signs off that the horse is sound enough to return to racing, work for the State Veterinarian and have blood specimens analyzed.
  9. A horse observed to be lame by the State Veterinarian may be placed on the vet’s list at the discretion of the Equine Medical Director for an amount of time determined by the Equine Medical Director. A horse observed to be lame a second time within 365 days of the first time shall be ineligible to race for 90 days, and in the case of a third occurrence within 365 days, the horse shall no longer be eligible to run.
  10. A horse scheduled to run within 7 days of its previous start shall be flagged for additional scrutiny.
  11. If an “override” is required to take an entry of a horse, that horse may not be permitted to start until the Equine Medical Director approves.
  12. Any horse found to have been treated with bisphosphonates shall be declared ineligible to run. Any veterinarian found to have administered bisphosphonates to a horse shall be subject to disciplinary action.
  13. Any horse entered in a race is not permitted to leave the grounds.
  14. No 6 year old maidens will be allowed to start, and

Effective Date – February 1, 2020:

Administration of furosemide (Lasix) shall be restricted to 4 hours prior to post time of the horse’s race. A horse not meeting the 4 hour restriction shall be scratched.

Chairman Algeo commented that the directives have been reviewed several times, made available for comment on a number of occasions to all stakeholders and action needed to be taken. Chairman Algeo also commented that the initiatives are not reactionary, but proactive steps by the Commission. Commissioner Wayson asked that at the next meeting the Commission be provided information regarding the daily maintenance of the track surface. The Commission unanimously approved the Safety and Welfare directives.

Proposed and Emergency Regulations.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins presented the Commission members with three regulations on a proposed as well as an emergency basis. COMAR would restrict the administration of any intra-articular joint administration to 14 days before a horse could run. COMAR deleted a provision that permitted the stacking of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at certain thresholds. Finally, COMAR would reduce the threshold for flunixin and phenylbutazone and remove any threshold for diclofenac and firocoxib, which essentially restricted the use of any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug from 24 hours to 48 hours. The Commission unanimously approved the regulations on both a proposed and on an emergency basis.

Public Comments.

Chairman Algeo reflected on the events of 2019, including the failed MEDCO Bill that was introduced during the 2019 legislative session. The Chairman commented he was unsure of where the industry was headed at that time, but thanked and congratulated Alan Rifkin, Bill Cole and Alan Forman for all their hard work in developing the proposed plan for Pimlico and Laurel that will be introduced to the legislature in January. The Chairman also reminded everyone that January 22, 2020 was Horse Industry Day in Annapolis and encouraged everyone to attend.

Next Commission Meeting

The next Commission Meeting will be held on January 23, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. at Laurel Park, Laurel, Maryland.

J. Michael Hopkins
Executive Director