HARRISBURG,Pa.--The Pennsylvania Racing Commission is now officially under the jurisdiction of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, and two Delaware Valley residents, Rick Abbott and Duncan Patterson, are members of the Internal Adjudication Panel.
"We had a racing commission meeting March 28, and we gave final approval, so we are now officially part of HISA," said Russell Jones of Unionville, Pa., a member of the Pennsylvania Racing Commission. "They became officially in charge of all drug testing and all drug penalties on March 27."
"We are working with them," sad Jones."HISA has sub-contracted us as its agent in Pennsylvania. Their rules are not very different from ours, so it won't be much of a change for horsemen. We were doing everything in Pennsylvania before HISA according to its standards, so very little has changed."
"HISA is using the laboratory at New Bolton as one of its labs,"said Jones. "Because HISA is using New Bolton's lab, we don't have to pay New Bolton any more. So instead of owing $6 million a year, we're down to about $1.2 million, which is a big relief to the race tracks and horsemen."
Rick Abbott from Pennsylvania and Duncan Patterson from Delaware are two of the 15 members of the Internal Adjudication Panel that will hear controlled medication rule violation cases.
State stewards will be prohibited from participating in cases originating in their state, and all members of the panel will receive training on HISA's adjudication processes before they can hear cases and must complete continuing education on an annual basis.
Members of the panel are appointed for four year terms.
ABBOTT served on the Pennsylvania Racing Commission for 13 years, from 1996 to 2009, and served as its chairman for a number of years, and he currently chairs the Appeal and Review Committee of the National Steeplechase Association.
He spent 40 years as a thoroughbred sales agent.
Patterson is currently chairman of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission and has been a commissioner since 1988,
He is chairman of the Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee for the Association of Racing Commissioners International and a member of the Stewards Advisory Committee for NSA.
He has been involved in horse racing for 50 years as a trainer, amateur steeplechase jockey, owner and steward for NSA.
"The whole point is to have uniformity in rulings," said Patterson. "Most states were following the same regulations, but the rulings were totally inconsistent from state to state."
Horse racing has been under a black cloud due to the number of deaths of horses at race tracks, so much so that the continuation of racing was threatened.
Racing has received much criticism concerning the drugging of horses, and the hope is that HISA and consistent rulings will mitigate that problem and allow racing to continue.
"All rulings will be final, although trainers can appeal to the Federal Trade Commission, although that would be lengthy and expensive," said Patterson. "We've all had a two hour meeting going over forms we'd have to submit."
"There will usually be one person handling the hearing because it is so difficult to get people together, but we're going to be under pretty strict regulations," said Patterson. "This will expedite hearings, because violations hold up purse money and suspensions. We're going to try to be consistent with penalties."
"These cases will be pretty cut and dried," said Abbott."There are violations of controlled substances like bute, that trainers are allowed to use but not in races, and those are separate from banned substances, which are never to be used on horses."
"When a horse tests positive for a controlled substance, the trainer can ask for a split sample, but that sample now has to be sent to a HISA lab, not a lab of the trainer's choice," said Abbott. "The trainer can either say he'll take the punishment or he can ask for a hearing. There's a set of guidelines as to punishment."
"At a hearing, a trainer has the opportunity to put forward mitigating circumstances," said Abbott. "In all (guilty) cases, the horse loses the purse.There are guidelines of the penalties for the amount of the fine or number of days of suspension."
"With each subsequent violation in a two year period, the penalty becomes more harsh," said Abbott."After two years, the violation is erased."
"We don't have much leeway with imposing fines or suspensions, which is good," said Abbott.
"Adjudicators will be appointed in alphabetical order, which probably means I'll be the first," said Abbott. "All my life, I've been first in line."
As HISA only took over adjudications March 27, the first hearings probably won't be before mid-April.