Summary of the Summit: Updates from NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance and Thoroughbred Safety Committee

NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance Update

Mike Ziegler, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, began his presentation by noting that the Alliance had accredited 18 tracks in 15 months.  17 of those tracks were fully accredited; one was provisionally accredited.  Ziegler said that the accredited tracks accounted for more than 60% of pari-mutuel handle in the United States.  “The Alliance,” he said, “is working.”

As evidence of that assertion, he offered that:

  • Ten of the 18 accredited tracks have added cushioned crops.
  • Four have pushed for out-of-competition testing.
  • Four have added helmet and vest regulations.
  • Two have added padding to the starting gate.
  • Three have begun pre-race TC02 (“milkshake”) testing.
  • Two began participating in the Jockey Health Information System.
  • Six began associations with aftercare facilities to take care of retired racehorses.

He added that every track that has been accredited has had to make some substantive change.

Pimlico, he said, is a track that received provisional credit.  As a result, Pimlico began TC02 sampling and out-of-competition testing; added cushioned crops; began a security assessment; and initiated frozen sample testing.  Their operations, said Ziegler, substantively improved, and the track is now fully accredited.

Ziegler pointed to Sunland Park as another track that made significant improvements as part of the accreditation process, indicating pre-race exams; pre-race TC02 tests; NSAIDs; administration of Lasix; and helmets, vests, and crops as areas of improvement.  Sunland is at this point still provisionally accredited.

Moving away from the accreditation process, Ziegler talked about an Alliance committee that was formed with the goals of increasing awareness of post-racing careers for Thoroughbreds and working to find a national solution.  The committee has three expressed goals:  to create an online resource for all interested parties (trainers, owners, buyers, etc); to host a national forum for all parties involved with Thoroughbred aftercare; and to work to establish Thoroughbred-only divisions of horse shows to create demands for retired Thoroughbreds.

Ziegler said that in August of 2009, 55% of core fans believed that racing was safer than it was in 2008.  [Note:  the Big Brown steroids controversy and the death of Eight Belles made 2008 something of a flashpoint in public perception of racing safety.]

Thoroughbred Safety Committee Update

Dr. Larry Bramlage, veterinarian at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky, provided the names of the committee members (Stuart S. Janney III, John Barr, James G. (Jimmy) Bell, Bramlage, Dell Hancock, C. Steven Duncker, and Dr. Hiram C. Polk).  The committee is a part of the Jockey Club, and all of its members are Jockey Club members.  The committee meets quarterly.

Bramlage stressed that the committee has no legislative or enforcement powers; its goal is to build consensus and has “embraced and promoted” many initiatives.  It conducts interviews with various members of the racing industry; Bramlage characterized the interviews as “frank and anonymous.” Among those Bramlage indicated that the committee interviews are jockeys, trainers, veterinarians, handicappers, chemists, and geneticists, from both the United States and Canada.

In listing the initiatives that the committee has recommended or adopted, Bramlage included:

  • Getting rid of anabolic steroids
  • Adopting safety crops
  • Banning all traction devices on front shoes other than toe grabs greater than 4mm. Bramlage noted that the committee wanted them no greater than 2 mm.

Bramlage also noted that the word “crop” sounds “more genteel” than whip, and seemed to suggest that it is the more desired word.

Also included in initiatives that the Thoroughbred Safety Committee supports are the adoption of the Association of Racing Commissioners International Uniform Class Guidelines and Penalties; participation in the Equine Injury Database; adopting model rules on milkshaking and alkalinizing substances; and development of drug testing initiatives.

Bramlage discussed InCompass, which is a pre-race exam software program, available free to all tracks, and he encouraged all tracks and regulatory vets to participate in it.

Topics for future consideration and discussion are medication and information management.

More information on the Thoroughbred Safety Committee can be found on its website.

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