THE Philippine Racing Commission recently held a seminar on the implementing rules and regulations of the equine drug testing program that will be conducted shortly among all three racetracks—San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite; Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite; and Metro Turf Racecourse in Malvar, Batangas.
Philracom’s Executive Director Andrew Rovie Buencamino and Diagnostics and Laboratory head Alejandro Cambay, both veterinarians, held a consultative meeting at SLLP last Aug. 25 with trainers, racing club managers, and club and Philracom veterinarians.
“It was a briefing on the resolutions passed by Philracom on the IRR of drug testing,” said Buencamino, “as well as on the required specifications for the drug testing facilities [in the clubs].
“Everything went well and everyone was in agreement [that] there will be a six-month dry run to start as soon as we get the reagents from Neogen. Within those six months we will not impose any sanctions or penalties.”
Philracom has engaged the services of Neogen, a US-based drug testing company. Among the prohibited substances Neogen will screen for are downers (depressants or performance inhibitors) such as azaperone, etorphine, propranolol, detomidine, benzodiazepine, flunittrazepam, and promazine.
Painkillers such as acetaminophen, celecoxib, fentanyl, and phenylbutazone are not prohibited but they will be monitored and regulated.
“We are waiting for the reagents from Neogen,” said Buencamino. “The Elisa machine (drug testing equipment) is already here. [It] is the same as that used by St. Luke’s [Hospital] and all other first-class hospitals. The reliability is 99.8 percent.
“We are now training the [industry] veterinarians as to the collection protocol, both urine and blood samples, as well as [conducting] inspections on the progress of the construction of drug testing facilities of the racing clubs.”
During the dry run period, Philracom will test its procedures for loopholes or gaps and perfect them. This also allows industry stakeholders to get used to the new policy.
“We have to get everyone on board,” said Buencamino, “and after six months we will do a reassessment… We are in close coordination with the Hongkong Jockey Club and are applying what we learned from them [about equine drug testing] through the guidance of [chemist] Dr. Terrence Wan, the head of the HKJC drug testing laboratory.”
Dr. Wan, who I met during a visit to HKJC some years ago, has generously shared his expertise with Philracom through the years. HKJC has always opened its doors to Philracom personnel for facility tours and race observations, in general sharing best practices.
The first demonstration of the drug testing procedure was held last July 30 at Santa Ana Park, after the conclusion of the third leg of the Philracom Triple Crown stakes race.
“We will do the same next at Metro Turf then at San Lazaro after they finish [building] their facilities,” Buencamino said.
Equine drug testing is a requirement that the industry has to comply with as part of its membership in the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.
The other objectives of the drug-testing program are: to establish a standard for testing race horses participating in all races for possible presence of prohibited substances; to safeguard the health and welfare of the horses; and to preserve the integrity of the races.
The much-debated policy was supposed to have been implemented two decades ago but met with resistance several times over the years. Today, however, there is a consensus that such a policy is necessary for the sport here to meet international standards, a goal of many in the industry for so long.
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Philracom is looking for a chemist to help run the equine drug testing program. If you’re one and you’re looking to establish a career in the exciting and interesting Philippine Thoroughbred industry, this is a golden opportunity. Visit philracom.gov.ph for contact details.
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Upcoming events: Sep. 3, the Mayor Ramon Bagatsing Racing Festival at San Lazaro Leisure Park, featuring the Philracom 1st leg Juvenile S.; Sep. 10, Japan Racing Association Festival at Santa Ana Park; Sep. 17, Philracom Lakambini S. at Metro Turf.
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