Day At The Track

Indiana and New York new cobalt rules

03:51 PM 05 Sep 2014 NZST
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Colbalt Carbonate

At its September 4, 2014 public meeting, the Indiana Horse Racing Commission voted 3-0 to approve rules to regulate cobalt levels in race horses. Cobalt is a naturally occurring trace mineral. The excessive administration of cobalt may enhance the performance of, and potentially become hazardous to, the horse.

The Commission’s action is based on recommendations in a staff report prepared by its Executive Director, Joe Gorajec. The report, which can be accessed at, indicates that results of blood tests from horses racing this season at Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand indicate that excessive levels of cobalt in horses is jeopardizing the integrity of Indiana’s racing product and endangering the health and welfare of its horses.

“The integrity of our racing product and welfare of our horses are of paramount importance to us. The Commission has now taken appropriate action to address this issue,” said Joe Gorajec, Executive Director.

The threshold level will be 25 parts per billion (ppb) and enforcement of the new regulation will begin with races conducted on September 30, 2014. Any trainer whose horse’s blood tests high for cobalt will be subject to disciplinary action, which could include up to a one-year suspension, as well as a fine and forfeiture of the purse. The samples will be tested at the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Lexington, Kentucky.

The Commission would like to thank RMTC’s Executive Director Dr. Dionne Benson; LGC Science, Inc. Laboratory Director, Dr. Richard Sams; and the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for their invaluable assistance. In addition, the Commission is grateful to the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council and the RMTC for providing the funding of the study which has lead to the threshold level.

For further information contact Joe Gorajec at or at (317) 233-3119.

New York calls for ten year ban for cobalt use

The New York State Gaming Commission today announced that it will issue a standard 10-year suspension to anyone who violates the harness rule prohibiting the use of substances that abnormally oxygenate a horse’s blood, including supra-dietary administration of cobalt salts.

Cobalt salts have a number of industrial and agricultural uses, but are not intended for administration to horses.

“The Commission will not allow those seeking to cheat to undercut New York’s world-class racing program,” said Commission Executive Director Robert Williams. “We take seriously any practices that compromise the health and safety of race horses. Equine Medical Director Scott Palmer and the New York Drug Testing and Research Laboratory have instituted a comprehensive program to identify violations and will continue to vigilantly advocate for the horse and the public.”

Cobalt, a naturally-occurring element with properties similar to those of iron and nickel, is found in low levels in many horse feeds and vitamin supplements such as Vitamin B12 formulations. Low levels of cobalt are present in all horses and are not considered to be harmful.

Large doses can cause cobalt toxicity associated with myocardial and other organ pathology in humans and other animals. The detection of abnormally high levels of cobalt in the blood of racehorses results from cobalt being administered to impermissibly enhance aerobic performance through illicit blood doping, similar to the prohibited administration of erythropoietin (EPO).

Administration of cobalt salts by oral or intravenous treatment will cause an abnormal increase in serum cobalt levels that the New York Drug Testing and Research Laboratory can detect and is actively monitoring. To enhance the efficacy of this new program, the Commission is not currently publishing the laboratory threshold for cobalt.

The Commission’s rule prohibits only the supra-dietary administration of cobalt. The administration of feed supplements and vitamins containing cobalt will increase the serum level of cobalt to a degree consistent with oral supplementation, but will not create the abnormally high levels that result from the administration of cobalt salts. Oral administration of commercially available Vitamin B feed supplements cannot elevate serum cobalt to a level that will create a positive regulatory finding. Water-soluble cobalt salts, however, deliver a supra-dietary dose of cobalt. Such administrations induce a marked and stable polycythemic response (increase in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood) through a more efficient transcription of the erythropoietin gene.

The Commission is considering a similar rule for Thoroughbred racing. The harness rule went into effect last month.

From the Indiana and New York Racing/Gaming Commissions

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