AGCO Delays New Horse Racing Medication Rules

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) had planned on introducing new regulations for horse medications in qualifiers and workouts. However, these rule changes, specifically SB 6.54.01 and TB 15.40.01, are now postponed until January 1, 2024. The commission’s aim is to offer clearer insights regarding these updated requirements.

Rationale Behind the New Protocols

These new protocols emerged in response to concerns about racehorse treatment. With numerous allegations globally regarding their maltreatment – some leading to the horses’ deaths – it’s spurred a re-evaluation of horse racing’s future. The growing popularity of horse racing betting further underscores the need for stringent regulations to ensure the welfare of the participating animals. The decision to alter the Rules of Racing was initially communicated on June 5, 2023. However, these changes particularly rules TB 15.40.02 and SB 6.54.02, require more refinement, testing, and strategies for enforcement.

Incidents Spurring Change

Highlighting the pressing need for these rules, there was an incident in July 2023 involving a Standardbred trainer being fined and suspended due to the dubious death of racehorse Cams Lucky Sam. Carol Voyer, the trainer, faced penalties of over $11,000 CAD and a suspension from July 19, 2023, to July 18, 2026. This case, along with others, especially outside Canada, like the one before the Kentucky Derby, has intensified public scrutiny over racehorse treatment.

Breaking Down the New Rules

Set to be enacted by January 1, 2024, here’s a closer look at the two main rules:

  • Rule 15.40.02: An updated rule. Horses needing a workout to be removed from the Vet’s List must not test positive for specific medications. Breaches will result in a $500 CAD penalty, and the horse will be placed back on the Vet’s List under its prior conditions.
  • Rule 6.54.02: A fresh addition. Horses needing a qualifier to be taken off the Vet’s List should be free from certain medications. Any positive test will lead to the horse’s disqualification and re-inclusion on the Vet’s List.

As per the AGCO, these changes aim to ensure consistency and fairness across breeds. They’re also contemplating a review of the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing to potentially include an option for claimants to return a horse, especially if it tests positive after an attempt to exit the Vet’s List.

During this transitional phase, the AGCO will focus on licensing specifics and the broader implications if this scheme is broadened. Additional guidance will be available on their official website and will be directly shared with industry stakeholders, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Additional Updates

Alongside these, Bulletin No. 88, a new starting gate rule for both Thoroughbred and Quarter horses, was already initiated in June. This amendment ensures both horses and starting personnel experience safe loading practices at the starting gate. It also outlines new trainer requirements concerning the reporting of current stabling locations.

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Conclusion: Next Steps in Ontario's Horse Racing Reforms

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Anthony Odiase - GambleOntario Author

Anthony Odiase

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The AGCO’s commitment to refining horse racing rules, especially around medication, emphasizes the industry’s dedication to fair play and the well-being of racehorses. With these changes in the pipeline, the future of horse racing in Ontario looks poised for positive transformation.

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