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Steroids, toe grabs banned from all graded stakes

A week after the Breeders' Cup, Thoroughbred racing's championships, effectively banned steroids from its affiliated races, another industry group has announced a sweeping change that will take things a step further.

The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association will force states with all the biggest races to adopt uniform bans on steroids and ”toe grabs,“ two of the most controversial racing issues of the year.

The states also will have to test for ”milkshaking,“ the outlawed practice of force-feeding horses alkalinizing agents such as baking soda to offset the lactic acid that builds up in muscles during races.

TOBA announced Friday that it will require all graded stakes races, which include the most important events of the year, to be run in states that have adopted, at a minimum, model rules on anabolic steroids and horseshoes with front toe grabs.

Racetracks could also implement the measures through ”house rules,“ although that is a much more gray area because the tracks do not have regulatory authority over licenses.

Races will lose graded eligibility if the state or the track does not follow rules modeled on those put forth by the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

A race's grade is the primary way the company is ranked. Winning Grade I races mean a horse has faced the best, won the most money, and is worth the most in the breeding shed.

Kentucky, which has many Grade I, II, and III races, is drafting a ban on steroids, and last month the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission voted to limit toe grabs to 2 millimeters or less.

The Kentucky Derby, the state's most famous Grade I race, was won this year by Big Brown, who raced on steroids, according to his trainer. The second-place finisher, Eight Belles, was euthanized on the track when she broke both front legs shortly after the finish. Eight Belles was wearing toe grabs.