Trainers nationally are aware from heavy media reporting over recent months of the current problem with altrenogest-based products, with laboratory testing at two sites carried out by Racing Victoria (RVL) identifying the presence of the anabolic steroid, trenbolone &/or trendione.
Altrenogest based commercial products – which includes those trading under brand names Readyserve, Regumate and Ovu-mate, in both liquid and injectable form – are widely used by racing stables across the country to regulate the cycles of fillies and mares, which in turn, helps moderate poor and potentially unsafe horse behaviours during this period.
So, what is the base problem?
The process at the supply source that blends the elements together to create the altrenogest, appears to have altered. This has in turn, changed the composition of the altrenogist itself, which now tests positive for trace elements of an anabolic steroid. This first surfaced in Victoria in November 2017, a second positive was returned from a sample taken in January 2018, and subsequent testing by RVL on a raft of batches and products, oil and injectable form, over the last three months, has yet again thrown up more positive results.
What about the alternatives?
Having used altrenogest based products for decades in Australia without problem, which were easy to administer and highly effective in its application, clearly this is not an ideal situation for trainers.
The alternative to the altrenogest-based products, as recommended by RVL, is progesterone injection. However, this application requires more science, more work and more mathematics to configure the correct dosage and timing for administration. It has also been stated by some trainers that this option is not as effective as the altrenogest-based products. It is however, THE alternative at this time; hence, we encourage trainers to discuss this option with their veterinarian.
What has been the approach around Australia by the racing authorities?
What is no doubt difficult for trainers to understand is the fracture that has occurred between racing states as a result. Racing NSW introduced a Local Rule (LR) in August, whereby there will be no rule breach should a non-consequential – below 1 microgram per litre – trace level of trenbolone, together with altrenogest, be detected in a sample at any time for a filly or mare that races in that state.
The other racing jurisdictions, led by RVL, have elected to take the more conservative approach to this point. Generally, trainers have simply been reminded of their obligations under the rules of racing, recommended to abstain from using the altrenogest-based products, and offered the alternative of progesterone injections pending the introduction of a more permanent solution.
What is the ATA doing?
Firstly, we have had extensive discussions, and consulted regularly with trainers and RVL on this subject, over many months. We are also aware of the conversations that have taken place, and which are ongoing, between RVL, the Australian pharma companies and their international altrenogest suppliers. (We are also aware of discussions between the pharma companies and their suppliers, independent of RVL).
Secondly, we are communicating with Racing Australia. As the national regulator, RA has a clear obligation and responsibility to take ultimate charge of this subject. To that end, in nine (9) days time, Veterinary heads from the state PRA’s will come together at a Veterinary & Analysts Committee (VAC) meeting, where they will discuss the potential national solution here. Shortly thereafter, the resolutions from this forum will be referred to RA for further discussion and decision by their Board of Directors, which includes the CEO’s of the various state and territory PRA’s.
What is the timeframe for a national resolution?
Everyone understands the problem, and sadly, it is the trainer and their owners primarily who are the most disadvantaged, and who must collectively work through this potentially debilitating problem during what is for many, a peak racing season i.e.: spring.
Accordingly, what we now need MORE THAN EVER from our regulatory bodies is cohesion on this subject, and a single solution for the sake of our participants, the public and the industry itself. And quickly!
To that end, we do expect the broader, national picture to become clear prior to the end of September.
We assure members this matter is a priority for the ATA, and we will continue to communicate regularly with the key state and national peak bodies to ensure the best possible outcome, at the earliest time, is achieved.
Should you have any queries you are welcome to contact me in the office.
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Trainers’ Association
(ABN 86 182 142 206)
Level 1 – 400 Epsom Road Flemington Victoria 3031
Phone: (03) 9372 1688 Fax (03) 9372 1699