Maintaining welfare and integrity in Australian Racing


Each year, thousands of Australian thoroughbreds compete in racing. Illness and training injuries are common, but there is still uncertainty about treatment regimes, excretion and detection periods for many important therapeutic drugs. Furthermore, there is a growing problem of the offlabel use of registered drugs. These can place in peril the horse’s welfare, the reputation of the trainer and/or owner, and the integrity of racing. This project builds on previous work by producing reliable blood and urinary excretion data for important equine drugs not previously assessed. The project will be expanded to investigate drugs administered offlabel including those registered for use in other species (e.g. ibruprofen). The purpose is not to condone such practices but demonstrate the presence of a drug is not due to accidental exposure. There is also the potential to develop new methods of drug detection. The previous project showed that using 10 to 12 horses improves the accuracy in determining average excretion rates and the variability between horses. It provides the probability of breaching the detection level at any timepoint after drug administration. This approach to maintaining a drugfree environment is highly innovative and has been adopted overseas. Collaborators from the previous project will be approached to, over three years, conduct up to 18 drug administration trials in thoroughbred horses. The forensic laboratories will share the analytical work to ensure a speedy throughput. Stakeholder involvement in this project will be maximised through the use of both a consortium committee and an industry reference group.


Thoroughbred Horses

Research Organisation

Charles Sturt University

Objective Summary

This project directly addresses Objective 3 of AgriFutures Australia Thoroughbred Horses Program. It clearly states that the use of therapeutic and prohibited substances in thoroughbred horses continues to be an important issue. Reliable knowledge about the pharmacokinetics of therapeutic drugs will be of considerable benefit to equine clinicians when treating all horses regardless of their competition status, and in turn, this will assist in the treatment of equine diseases and in promoting the welfare of horses across the entire industry. With respect to horses that are destined for competition, more reliable excretion data will allow the animals to be treated with much more confidence and may help to remove any deterrent to the trainer to seek veterinary treatment, based on the fear of their horse returning a positive swab. This too, will contribute to improved health and welfare for some horses. By encouraging trainers to seek appropriate treatment for their horses, the impact of disease will be reduced. It is also likely that the injured horse will be able to recover sooner and maintain longevity, thus addressing the issue of profitability and wastage in the thoroughbred industry. The project addresses the growing issue of offlabel use of therapeutics, acting as a deterrent to such practices, thus addressing both welfare and integrity issues. There will be opportunities to develop and refine drug testing methodology. This will keep Australian authorities at the forefront of equine drug detection internationally, thus promoting the professionalism of the Australian racing industry world wide.

Project Code


Project Stage


Project Start Date

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Project Completion Date

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Journal Articles From Project

Not Available

National Priority

Frontier technologies for building and transforming Australian industries

National Priority

Adoption of R&D

National Priority

HOR-Improve the safety of industry participants and the welfare of horses, and enhance the sustainability of the industry