New Mexico Racing Commission (NMRC) Chairman Ray Willis announced at the organization’s April 21 meeting that regulators will adopt enhanced out-of-competition drug testing in that state.

“This project will be an aggressive procedure to let the public know that New Mexico racing is going in the right direction and we will start the testing immediately,” Willis said.

The announcement came with resounding support from the management teams of all the New Mexico racetracks, the New Mexico Horsemen’s’ Association, as well as the New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association.

“I commend the aggressive approach taken by the NMRC,” said Fred Hutton, director of racing for Zia Park, in Hobbs, New Mexico.

The New Mexico administrative code allows for the NMRC to conduct, without advanced notice, out-of-competition testing on horses that are on the grounds of a racetrack or training center under the jurisdiction of the commission; under the care or control of a trainer or owner licensed by the commission; or any horse whose papers are filed in the racing office; or has been nominated to a stakes race. Horses to be tested can be selected at random, with probable cause, or as determined by the commission or an agent of the commission.

The NMRC investigators, along with a licensed veterinarian, will begin the out-of-competition testing at Sun Ray Park in Farmington, New Mexico, immediately. They will appear unannounced at a trainer’s barn and draw samples from randomly selected horses. If a trainer fails to present the horse that is selected, that horse could be suspended from racing for a maximum of 120 days and the trainer could face a maximum suspension of 180 days.

The penalty for a positive test originating from an out-of-competition test could be a maximum of a 120 day suspension and the removal of the foal papers for the horse from the racing office. Additionally, the trainer could be fined a maximum of $1,500 as well as receive a maximum suspension of 180 days for a positive test.

“Based on the possible penalties, not only do we feel that this tactic will enable us to catch cheaters, we feel it will work as a deterrent for those teetering on the borderline of whether or not to use the illegal substances that are out there,” said NMRC Executive Director Ismael “Izzy” Trejo.

Also at the April 21 meeting, the commission reminded horsemen participating at New Mexico racetracks that the suspension of the use of the bronchodilator clenbuterol is still in effect and has been since August of 2015. All samples with any trace of clenbuterol, whether it is a post or pre-race detection will constitute a violation of NMRC rules and will be prosecuted as a medication violation.