Respected veterinarian Judith Medd believes a migration of horses from city-based stables to a semi-rural environment could explain why there has been a spate of positive arsenic swabs in Perth.
Lou Luciani is the latest trainer under a stewards’ inquiry when his colt Murray The Bulldog returned an illegal level of arsenic after his win at Pinjarra in June.
Lindsey Smith is also facing investigation from the stewards after Great Again tested positive to arsenic after the first of his three victories at Northam on June 4.
Last month young trainer Steele Casey also landed in hot water after Seaside Serenade and Avidus returned illegal levels of arsenic, but he escaped any penalty.
Stewards reasoned that high levels of arsenic in Casey’s three horses were most likely to have occurred after they chewed treated pine posts at his property.
Medd, from Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA), says a rise in positive arsenic swabs is due to horses moving away from their traditional stable set ups.
“I have been working in races for pretty much my whole adult life and certainly around the Ascot area I have seen a huge shift away from horses being kept in traditional brick boxes, concrete and steel stables,” Medd told Tabradio.
“They are now residing on properties and living in paddocks, which is great for the horses, they get a lot more room to move around and they enjoy it and race accordingly.
“But most of these paddocks use what we call copper chromium arsenic treated pine timbers and we do see a significant amount of chewing on those posts.”
Medd believes the international threshold of 0.3 milligrams of arsenic per litre of urine may need to be revised, particularly in Australia.
“Most of the thresholds within the Australian rules of racing are set by the International Federation Of Horse Racing Authorities (IFHA) and they apply to all countries internationally that race thoroughbreds,” Medd said.
“It’s interesting because the thresholds as I understand it are largely set on a population of horses that reside overseas and in Hong Kong.
“The Hong Kong population would reside on course in stables made of say concrete and steel.
“In Australia we keep our horses in different environments.
“I believe the IHFA are looking at this threshold in the next 12-months.
“There will be discussions going forward I have no doubt about that.”
Despite a recent increase above the arsenic threshold levels, Medd says she doesn’t believe it gives thoroughbreds and standardbreds any competitive advantage.
“In my opinion arsenic is not considered performance enhancing,” Medd said.
“At the end of the day arsenic is heavy metal and in large quantities could be toxic.
“I don’t think these horse are ingesting them at toxic levels.
“I think the arsenic positives we are seeing is the result of these horses moving out of traditional and urban environments.”
Medd says trainers may have to consider an alternative to pine fencing on their properties.
“There might be a move away from traditional pine fencing,” Medd said.
“Hopefully we can go to more modern materials that we are starting to see like rubber and pvc type piping.”