Delaware commission to act on clenbuterol regulation; 2021 racing schedule on hold

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Nov. 20. 2020

The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission has indicated it will begin the regulatory process of implementing a broad restriction on use of the bronchodilator clenbuterol before racing returns to Delaware Park in 2021.

The DTRC, which met Nov. 18, also approved 364 simulcast dates for Delaware Park, but the track will not submit an application for live racing dates until there is more clarity regarding COVID-19 and related restrictions.

At a recent meeting, a coalition of 31 regulatory and stakeholder organizations representing seven states in the Mid-Atlantic region unanimously agreed to work together to implement a new rule that will significantly restrict the improper use of clenbuterol. The Maryland Racing Commission began its rule-making process in October.

Under the current regional rule, clenbuterol may not be administered to a horse within 14 days of a race, and the concentration of the drug in a post-race blood sample may not exceed 140 picograms/milliliter. The new rule will eliminate the existing testing threshold, require regulatory approval in advance for a horse in racing or training that is prescribed the medication, mandate that the horse be placed on the Veterinarian’s List, and bar the horse from racing until it tests negative in both blood and urine and completes a satisfactory workout observed by a regulatory veterinarian.

DTRC Chairman Duncan Patterson noted that under the proposed regulation, any amount of clenbuterol found in a sample will constitute a violation. The rule-making process will begin in January, he said.

Regarding other states in the region adopting the regulation, Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Executive Director Bessie Gruwell said: “We need to make sure we’re all in step with this, doing it at the same time.”

Delaware Park usually begins it live meet sometime in May, and the number of days and calendar is typically approved by the DTRC in January. Kevin DeLucia, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at the track, told the commission the schedule is not yet finalized.

“It’s a little premature to ask for any number of days because of the issues we’re having with the pandemic,” he said. “We don’t know what the future holds. There are too many unknowns. We’ll make the request at a future date.”

Delaware Park and the DTHA are in the midst of a three-year contract that calls for a scheduled 85 live racing programs from 2019 to 2021.

The DTRC at its Nov. 18 meeting also discussed a request for proposals for its equine drug-testing program, the contract for which is currently held by Truesdail Laboratories in California. The RFPs will be sent out in December and returned in January, with a decision by the commission expected in February.

Regarding the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program, which awards purse bonuses to owners and certifiers for all overnight races at Delaware Park, 189 new applications had been submitted so far for 2021 with more expected by Dec. 31.

The Delaware THA administers the program. Gruwell said that even with 20 fewer racing days in 2020 because of the COVID-19 shutdown that delayed the opening, the meet featured the highest number of starts by Certified horses. There were 302 individual horses and a total of 800 starts.

The DCTP, which paid about $1.3 million in 2020, actually had an overpayment this year, which has led to discussions to drop bonus payments for fourth-place and fifth-place. There will be further talks, said Gruwell, who noted the success of the program.

“It’s pretty astounding how many horses we had running here that are Delaware Certified,” Gruwell said.

Said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse: “The program is working extremely well and doing what it was set out to do.”