HISA Outlined Proposed Rules Governing Drugs, Crops and Claims

HISA Rules Outlined

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) released its proposed new rules Thursday that addressed doping enforcement, medication, new crop rules and new claiming provisions.

HISA Rules OutlinedThe Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) outlined rules for drug use, riding crop usage and claiming races. (Image: Jay Baker)

The HISA law puts drug enforcement in the hands of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Those rules simplify what is often a Byzantine maze of drug classifications and penalties. Under the new HISA rules banned substances fall into two categories: primary and secondary.

Primary substances, such as clenbuterol, anabolic medications and blood doping agents, are forbidden at all times. Secondary substances, such as most anti-inflammatories and supplements, are banned only on race days.

A trainer handling a horse testing positive for a primary substance violation can be suspended for up to two years for a first violation. That penalty jumps to four years for aggravated circumstances or a second violation and the proverbial “three strikes and you’re out” for a third violation – a lifetime ban.

HISA can punish the horses

Horses testing positive for secondary violations bring a 30-day suspension and fine. That jumps to up to a two-year suspension for aggravated circumstances or four or more violations in a two-year period.

The horses aren’t immune from punishments. Testing positive brings an automatic race-day disqualification and up to a 14-month suspension. And along with this, all administered medications must be logged into a national electronic database. That database must be updated within 24 hours of treatments.

Horses face an open-ended testing period. No advance notice is needed to drug-test a horse. Trainers and owners must account for their charges at all times, lest they face a suspension for the trainer or horse.

Public comment welcomed and encouraged

These new rules aren’t etched in stone yet. They will undergo two rounds of public feedback: an initial public comment period, followed by submission to the Federal Trade Commission and another public comment period before final enactment.

“We are honored to be involved at this stage to help draft and ultimately finalize gold-standard rules of anti-doping and medication control for the equine industry,” USADA CEO Travis Tygard said in a statement laying out the proposed rules. “We are excited with where this process is headed and with proposed rules being published for two additional rounds of public feedback.”

While the drug/medication rules draw much of the attention, expect latent attention falling on new riding crop rules for jockeys. HISA standardizes this across the country, allowing jockeys to strike a horse on the hindquarters no more than six times in a single race. They my strike a horse only twice in succession before allowing the horse to respond.

California sets template for HISA crop rule

These are the base rules currently underway in California, where the just-concluded Breeders’ Cup ran last weekend at Del Mar. Penalties are far more severe under these new guidelines than they currently are in California.

The proposed punishment for one to three extra strikes is a minimum three-day suspension for the jockey. Four to nine additional strikes brings the same suspension, along with automatic disqualification for the horse. Strike a horse 10 times or more and you’re sitting for a minimum of five days. Repeat offenders are subject to further suspensions.

This will have a minor impact on races from a betting standpoint, based on what happened in California when the rule was enacted. It is a stricter rule than most around the country and foreign riders often have a hard time adapting. But it shouldn’t create the full-blown mutiny and issues New Jersey jockeys encountered when that state’s racing commission passed a rule last September forbidding using the crop except in emergencies to control the horse.

Claiming rules streamlined to protect claimants

On the claiming front, claimers could void their claim if the horse dies or needs to be euthanized on the track, is vanned off to a hospital or goes on the vet’s list for bleeding, unsoundness or other malady. Any horse dying on the track must undergo a full necropsy within 24 hours.

New HISA rules also mandate claiming races can’t offer purses larger than a 1.6-1 ratio of the claiming price of the race. That means for a $60,000 claimer at Santa Anita, the purse can’t surpass $96,000.

HISA published more information on its website here.

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