Former vice-chairman of ARF John Messara urges USA to adopt consistent nationwide drug policy


The former vice-chairman of the Asian Racing Federation John Messara this week has encouraged American racing powerbrokers to abandon existing state-by-state drug policies and construct consistent drug-free rules across the USA.

John Messara, also the former chairman of Racing New South Wales and the Australian Racing Board, was addressing The Jockey Club's 67th annual Round Table Conference in Saratoga.

Messara believes that if the United States adopted a consistent nationwide drug policy it would have a positive impact on the entire thoroughbred industry.

"I think that having a national drug policy would unleash an economic monster in America," Messara said during his question and answer session with The Jockey Club's president James Gagliano.

"It is difficult for us in Australia to judge if we should buy a mare or stallion from the US because we do not know if it received medication.

"Rather than get bitten by it, we stay away. The same is applied as far as stallions are concerned."

Messara insisted that if anti-drug policies were implemented across the United States, consistent with other jurisdictions such as Australia, it would pave the way for the sport to be "more international'.

"America's credibility as an international provider of bloodlines is low compared to what it could be. I would appeal to American horsemen to join together," he added.

"The Horseracing Integrity Act would be a great base for the future if you can get it through. It will create a level playing field and make the sport more international."

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Jockey Club chief steward Kim Kelly sought to unite American racing with the rest of the world on interference rules. The United States, Canada and Turkey are the only major racing nations that operate under 'category two' interference rules.

Category two allows stewards to disqualify horses for causing interference, whether the interference was accidental or careless. The stewards must determine first if interference was committed and whether it altered the finishing order.

The interpretation of the category two rules led to the highly publicised disqualification of Maximum Security, who was first past the post in the Kentucky Derby.

"It is my respectful opinion that category two yields inconsistent and undesirable outcomes," Kelly said.

"While category one may not be perfect, one interference rule is significantly less imperfect than the other.

"So long as decisions are properly considered with all of the relevant factors and competing arguments being taken into account, then those decisions will always be able to be supported.

"Transparency is king. Confidence in the regulation of racing is paramount. Confidence lost, everything lost."