For the past year, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment has been conducting out of competition testing on horses racing at the Meadowlands, in part to determine if any trainers are using illegal substances, but also to gather information pertaining to what racehorses are being given prior to their races and to implement rules to keep the horses safe. This testing, performed in a joint effort by The Meadowlands and other jurisdictions, is in the form of blood samples taken from horses racing at The Meadowlands.
We had heard rumors that a substance known as Cobalt was being used because it was difficult to detect and was not being tested for. A large number of these samples have revealed the presence of Cobalt in the horse's system. In two cases there were massive amounts present when the samples were analyzed by the lab at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. In both cases those trainers are no longer allowed to participate at our three tracks.
After a lengthy process, including researching into what Cobalt is and what it does for the horses and discussions with many veterinarians, the Meadowlands has determined that when an excessive amount of Cobalt is administered to a horse, it can be very harmful. When used in excess, the affects of Cobalt can be, but are not limited to: cardiovascular issues, potential nerve problems, thickening of the blood and thyroid toxicity.
Based on this information, the Meadowlands has determined that in excessive levels, Cobalt is both a performance enhancing substance and detrimental to the health and well-being of the horse. We are quite certain that trainers and veterinarians using Cobalt were well aware of this. Therefore, going forward The Meadowlands has established a threshold level of four (4) times the standard deviation above the normal level of Cobalt.
If a blood sample reveals that a horse has a Cobalt level higher than four (4) times the standard deviation above the normal level, the trainer of that horse will be deemed unable to participate at the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. The odds of a horse having a Cobalt level that exceeds this threshold without having been administered an excessive amount of the substance are roughly 1 in 10,000.
"We are committed to providing the most integrity-driven product in harness racing,” said chairman Jeff Gural. "We set out on a mission when taking over the Meadowlands to not only provide our customers with that integrity-driven product, but to do what is best for the horse and for the industry. This threshold of Cobalt being implemented for horses competing at the Meadowlands, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs is just one step toward achieving what we set out to achieve. If you are found to be giving your horses an excessive amount of this substance, you are not racing at any of our three racetracks, plain and simple. This is not about catching trainers that are cheating, this is about keeping our equine athletes safe and healthy and providing our betting public and all of our participants a product that is on a level playing field.” (Meadowlands)