The racing industry will come together sometime this summer to ponder eliminating race-day medication, including common anti-bleeder drugs.
The board of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium announced Wednesday that it will join the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners for an international summit, with the date to be set shortly.
The move follows weeks of snowballing sentiment on the issue, with various industry groups weighing in both for and against a proposed five-year phase-out of all race-day medication.
On Wednesday, the Keeneland board adopted a resolution supporting "measures to work with other Thoroughbred organizations to adopt a pragmatic approach for the phasing in of uniform medication rules, testing rules and penalties that will result in Thoroughbred racing being conducted in a medication-free environment, both nationally and internationally."
Currently, medication rules and testing are set by each state racing authority separately, although in recent years many states have worked in concert to achieve near-uniformity in some areas.
After it was revealed that 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown ran legally on steroids, industry groups vowed to ban the drugs from U.S. racing, and within a year most jurisdictions had done so.
Now, the issue is whether to go further. Most American racehorses, both Thoroughbred and Standardbred, get a dose of the anti-bleeding medication Salix (the same as the human medication Lasix) before they race. But that is banned outside the U.S.
"Our chief concern is for the health and welfare of the horse, and ensuring the integrity and vitality of the sport," said David Foley, executive director of the AAEP.