For the second time in series history, 100 percent of the Breeders’ Cup runners loading into the gate this weekend will have undergone at least one out-of-competition test (OOCT). Last year was the first time Breeders’ Cup officials expanded the OOCT program broadly enough to catch every entrant. This year, Breeders’ Cup Out-of-Competition Program Director Dr. William Farmer said 10% of starters got more than one OOCT, 20% of entries were subjected to paired hair and blood testing, and 25% of samples were submitted to random bisphosphonate testing.
A total of 300 individual samples across 20 different facilities were tested. As reported earlier this week, one OOCT came up positive for stanozolol, resulting in the scratch of Princess Secret from the Juvenile Fillies.
OOCT began in June in the United States. Breeders’ Cup was able to send testers to collect samples from internationally-based runners during the year, with the exception of those in Ireland. Those horses were sampled upon their arrival into the United States with the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials.
Breeders’ Cup took over its own OOCT in 2017, in the wake of the 2016 scandal over Masochistic’s positive OOCT for stanozolol. Before that time, OOCT went through the local commission and results were not always released to Breeders’ Cup officials before the races. After the Breeders’ Cup took over testing, the authority expanded its ability to test more horses, taking the percentage of horses covered from 40 percent of runners to 100 percent in 2019.
This year’s figures were revealed at the annual health and safety media briefing Wednesday morning. Also at that briefing, Dr. Deborah Lamparter, co-leader of the Breeders’ Cup veterinary team, highlighted a few key changes to pre-race veterinary monitoring. After last year’s high profile breakdown of Mongolian Groom, a review of veterinary procedures conducted by Dr. Larry Bramlage resulted in six suggestions for improvement. According to Lamparter’s report, several of those have been implemented this year.
Breeders’ Cup veterinarians are teaming up with Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarians to keep two sets of eyes on each horse for examinations that will take place throughout the week in addition to the exam on the morning of the horse’s race. Those veterinary teams have studied each horse’s pre-race exam history as it has been entered into InCompass software, which shares veterinary notes across jurisdictions. This week’s exams will include palpation of legs as well as jogging in the barn area.
Horses entering the track for morning training at both Churchill Downs and Keeneland are required to jog in a line for veterinarians, with vets standing in front, behind, and off to the side of the horse for its jog. If the horse successfully passes the jog, it can go on with its regularly-scheduled exercise. The jogs are videoed and available for review later. A veterinarian will be watching video streams of morning workouts in addition to the veterinarians on the ground observing morning work, and vets will have access to videos of works taken by the track and various media outlets to review later.
If veterinarians find anything of concern, they will request the trainer have diagnostics done on the horse.
“After all of those reviews, if the horse is deemed unfit to start, a official KHRC veterinarian will recommend the horse be scratched,” said Lamparter.
Surface experts report Keeneland’s surfaces seem to be in good shape as the weekend approaches. Jim Pendergast, Keeneland track superintendent, reported that testing of the dirt and turf indicate the depth of cushion and track composition are all good. The track maintenance crew will take 45 moisture measurements and 45 going stick measurements each morning to check the surface and determine ratings for the surfaces. Currently, Pendergast anticipates the turf track, which is holding onto moisture from rain several days ago, will be listed as good by the start of the weekend.
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