After Yodeler was unsaddled at the winner’s circle, he was escorted to the test barn by two unassuming ladies in green shirts bearing the Washington Horse Racing Commission emblem. They began the chain of events that is our drug testing of every winner. The test barn is located directly across from the Quarterchute cafe. Every horse that wins a race gets tested, plus each horse that’s claimed, plus other horses selected by race stewards and some just by random tests. The top three finishers in a stakes race get tested. There can be 15 to 20 horses tested some days.
The horse is escorted back to the test barn where blood is drawn and urine is collected. The samples are then split and sent to a lab for testing. The blood is the easy part. It’s drawn with a needle from the vein in the horse’s neck. But the urine isn’t exactly something you can collect without the horse’s voluntary action.
In normal circumstances the horse will cool out by walking and drinking water. Then, is placed in a stall in the test barn with ample bedding where they are encouraged to pee by whistling. If the horses doesn’t show an interest in peeing, then he’s placed back on the walker for more time.
As I left work after Yodeler’s race, I decided to swing by the barn to check on Yodeler. I entered the barn to a chorus of whistles echoing from his stall. This is almost two hours after the race. In his stall was the Commission vet with a sterile cup on the end of a long stick.
Occasionally, a horse will simply refuse to go pee in the test barn. And there’s not a darn thing you can do about it except wait. And if that doesn’t work, the horse is escorted back to their stall by Commission personnel who continue to keep the horse under observation and attempt to collect a sample.
Yodeler simply needed the comfort of his own stall and some peace and quiet. Shortly after my arrival he did his business and the sample was collected. The woman from the commission was none too pleased with his shyness but Yodeler seemed unperturbed at being whistled at for the past hour.
Dr. Everett Macomber, commissioner for the Washington Racing Commission is preparing an article for us on race day drugs and will go into more depth on how the testing is done and what medications are permitted.