Kentucky horse trainer says Horse Racing Integrity Act would add bureaucracy and hurt business

06/28/2018 01:04 PM

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, is trying to gain traction in Congress to pass legislation which would add new requirements to horse racing across the nation.

Bentley Combs, a horse trainer in Kentucky who recently started his own business after years working in the equine industry, said the legislation sponsored by Barr and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-New York, would hurt his business because of additional fees to pay for added bureaucracy.

“This bill affects me as a newer trainer because I don’t have right now what somebody might say are ‘Saturday horses’ like a Justify — my owners, typically, deal in claiming horses — it’s a hobby for them,” Combs said.

Combs said the fees on first time horse owners would impact the sport as the costs rise in an already expensive hobby.

The horse industry brings $39 billion in economic impact to the U.S. economy and supports 1.4 million jobs on a full-time basis, according to the American Horse Council.

Barr has been trying to pass a version of the Horse Racing Integrity Act since 2015. The bill establishes an authority to create and implement a national uniform medication program.

Combs, and those against the bill argue it’s a solution in search of a problem, as state racing commission records compiled by the Association of Racing Commissioners International shows 99.5 percent of more than 354,000 tests show thoroughbred horses were negative for drug use. Of that half-a-percent, Combs said of those issues are likely errors or confusion on when certain medications, like those anti-inflammatory for sore muscles, were administered.

Part of Barr’s bill would ban the use of any medication on race days, and has sparked an internal horse racing discussion over the use of Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication.

Combs said there is already a race horse retirement problem in the United States, and by stopping the use of the medication it could cause a new-population of horses that are sent to an early retirement, and cause more barriers to entry for those seeking to own race horses.

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