Delaware alters rules for upcoming meet to combat vet shortage

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 8, 2022

The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, during an emergency meeting May 6, took action to combat a shortage of veterinary staff required to conduct the Delaware Park meet that begins May 25 and concludes Nov. 5.

The issue comes as the Thoroughbred racing industry prepares for the July 1 launch of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s Racetrack Safety Program. Several racetracks and regulatory agencies in the Mid-Atlantic region have expressed concerns over having enough qualified staff to carry out various protocols under HISA.

DTRC Chairman Duncan Patterson said the racing commission was notified in late April by Dr. Jay Baldwin of First Equine Health Services that his group cannot provide third-party veterinarians to administer race-day Lasix because of a shortage of staff. In addition, the DTRC has been unable to find a third state vet to oversee the drawing of blood in the test barn at Delaware Park.

“We’re going into the year with only two (state) vets,” Patterson said. “We’ve done everything we can to get a third, but we can’t. Dr. Baldwin told us he can no longer do Lasix injections, so we passed a rule stating that private vets can provide Lasix injections. Otherwise, we would have no one. The second rule allows assistant vet (technicians) to draw blood in the test barn. The third state vet would have been in the test barn.”

“It’s a huge problem,” Patterson said of a staff shortage that very well could impact other racing jurisdictions. “We want to be able to conform with HISA. It’s not a good situation.”

Third-party Lasix administration, which was adopted in Mid-Atlantic racing jurisdictions years ago as part of a uniform medication program, is not part of the HISA Racetrack Safety Program but is expected to be part of the HISA Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 states that effective with the start of the medication and testing program—in 2023 rather than July 1, 2022—Lasix will not be permitted within 48 hours of a race in all stakes and 2-year-olds races. Racing regulatory agencies can request a three-year exemption to allow race-day Lasix in all other races while a special committee undertakes a study on use of the therapeutic medication used to treat exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

Maryland (2020) and Pennsylvania (2021) do not permit race-day Lasix in races for 2-year-olds or in graded stakes. Delaware Park last year allowed race-day Lasix in races for 2-year-olds and in its graded stakes and will do so this year.