Research to find alternative methods to detect bisphosphonates in Thoroughbreds will be carried out in California.
Bisphosphonates are approved for use in treating older horses with navicular syndrome and some other bone conditions.
They are FDA-approved for use only in horses aged four and over, provided they are not pregnant or do not have a foal at foot.
Bisphosphonates reduce the action of osteoclasts, cells which clear away damaged bone and make way for the development of new bone. However, in young horses, this could interfere with growth.
Concerns have been raised in the racing industry over off-label use in young horses, apparently in the belief it will help build stronger, healthier bones.
The fresh research will be carried out by the University of California-Davis K.L. Maddy Equine Pharmacology Laboratory.
The work has been made possible through a gift from Vinnie and Teresa Viola’s St. Elias Stables.
The support was offered following an appeal by the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium (RMTC), and the American Association of Equine Practitioners in June last year for research proposals to investigate bisphosphonate use in racehorses and in young racing prospects intended for sale at public auction.
“The use of bisphosphonates on young racehorses has been a topic of concern in recent years, which is why we made a special call for research proposals last spring,” Grayson chairman Dell Hancock said.
“We are thankful to Vinnie and Teresa for their support of this project and for recognizing the importance of this research in promoting equine safety and welfare.”
The Violas started buying racehorses in the late 1990s and eventually formed St. Elias Stables, which, together with Teresa Viola Racing Stables, has won the Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming, the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Vino Rosso, and the Breeders’ Cup Mile with Liam’s Map, among other major stakes races.
Vinnie was elected to The Jockey Club’s board of stewards last August.
“As owners of Thoroughbred racehorses, we believe that medications that are harmful to a young horse’s skeletal system should never be administered off-label and that buyers should be able to test for the presence of such substances when purchasing horses,” Vinnie says.
“We are proud to support research that will enhance detection methods.”
Grayson’s research projects for 2020 include another study regarding bisphosphonates, “Bisphosphonates and Fatal Musculoskeletal Injury.” The study, based at Cornell University, is supported by the RMTC and the Klein Family Foundation.