DR Lynn Hillyer, chief veterinary officer for the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, has agreed to chair an international veterinary working group which aims to produce more advice for trainers on the withdrawal times for the anti-inflammatory medication known as TCA.
This week trainer John Gosden lost a listed race and was fined £3,000 over the presence of the corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide [TCA] in two post-race samples.
The drug is widely and legitimately used on thoroughbreds - injected into joints to treat inflammation and alleviate soreness pain - but is not allowed at therapeutic levels in raceday samples.
However, the amount of time the drug stays in a horse’s system can vary widely, depending on where the injection is given, the dosage, the extent of disease in the joint and whether or not the horse is on other medication.
Speaking at an anti-doping seminar for trainers, stable staff and veterinary surgeons this week, Dr Hillyer said: “We don’t have a recommended withdrawal time for TCA as there are so many variations. It is for the veterinary surgeon to advise the trainer.”
A minimum stand down of 14 days must, however, be given for rest and repair after treatment with any intra-articular corticosteroid
Adding that the IHRB offers an elective pre-race testing facility “which is grossly underused,” Dr Hillyer said that she and her colleagues in the IHRB “did our best recently to put out more advice on TCA” and that she would be chairing an international group of veterinary officers who would collate as much information as possible on withdrawal times for the drug.
In recent months trainers Tony Martin, Eugene O’Sullivan, J.P. Cahill, Garrett Ahern and John McConnell have lost winners due to the presence of TCA in post-race samples.
John Gosden said this week he and his veterinary surgeon were surprised to learn that TCA was present in the post-race sample of Majestic Noor when she won a listed race at Yarmouth in September 2020. The filly had received a 15ml dose of Adcortyl, which contains TCA, 15 days earlier. Stable companion Peronista tested positive 26 days after her injection.
Also at this week’s IHRB seminar Dr Hillyer said “very few” adverse analytical findings are caused by over-the-counter feed supplements.
“There have been issues with seaweed supplements but since 2018 the vast majority [of positive tests] are due to medication mistakes. The best advice on supplements is to ask yourself ‘do I need to use this?’ as anything you give a horse has the potential to add risk. Trainers will often send me photos of a supplement package and I am delighted to give them a review but the IHRB cannot stand over or endorse products.”
Dr Hillyer was also asked for clarification on whether trainers could or should sign racehorse passports out of the food chain. “There is a diversion in policy between us and Britain on this point,” she said. “Rather than just signing them all out, [in Ireland] there has to be a conscious decision by the veterinary surgeon at the time. I can see the pros and cons but we can’t go against the legislation. I think it needs revisiting. This needs to be looked at very carefully.”
Asked why post-race samples are sent to Newmarket for testing rather than tested here, Dr Hillyer said: “The bottom line is that we want to use the lab that will hit the standards we need in terms of sensitivity and range of drugs that can be detected. LGC is one of a number of ‘reference’ or certified labs which hits that standard. The tendering process is coming around again soon.”