The effort to bring uniform standards to protect racehorses passed three major milestones this week. One hundred and fifty Members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors to the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA), which is more than one third of the House of Representatives. Besides the strong Congressional support, 135 of the industry's leading trainers support the bill. Additionally, more than 53,000 people have signed a petition from the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI) calling for passage of the bill.
"The industry needs the Horseracing Integrity Act," said Shawn Smeallie, executive director of the Coalition of Horse Racing Integrity. "While various tracks and organizations have announced reforms addressing horse injuries, the industry still suffers from a lack of a national system to regulate itself. Passage of the HIA solves that."
The HIA is a horse-first bill that would create a private, independent national horse racing anti-doping authority responsible for developing and administering a strict anti-doping and medication control program. The CHRI is confident that passage of HIA will strengthen the horse racing industry by reforming industry drug use and showing Americans that the health of racehorses is a top priority.
The new anti-doping authority would be governed by a board of six individuals with deep horse racing expertise and seven individuals from the USADA.USADA is the benchmark for drug testing and enforcement of human athletes, including the nation's Olympians, and will help ensure racehorses are free from performance-enhancing drugs during racing and training creating a safer environment for horses and jockeys.
The horse racing industry is presently regulated by 38 different racing jurisdictions, which limits regulators' effective management of the many issues involved in the health and safety of racehorses.
The HIA does not establish a Washington-based regulatory authority, but rather creates an independent body, the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority under the oversight of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The new anti-doping authority would be governed by a board of six individuals with deep horse racing expertise and seven individuals from the USADA. USADA is the benchmark for drug testing and enforcement of human athletes, including the nation's Olympians, and will help ensure racehorses are free from performance-enhancing drugs during racing and training creating a safer environment for horses and jockeys.
"Clearly, we need to do more to protect horses and improve equine health," said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. "And the Horseracing Integrity Act will protect horses by creating the first truly national set of rules on drug usage and testing to ensure that horses are running free of performance-enhancing drugs. The health of the horse needs to come first, which is what this legislation does."
"Public confidence in our sport has been shaken, and we find ourselves in a pivotal moment in horse racing's long history in the U.S.," said Kelly Summers Wietsma, president of Equisponse. "That is why this growing list of 52 industry-leading trainers, collectively with more than 50,000 wins and 22 North American year-end Outstanding Trainer awards, have signed a letter supporting the HIA."
These trainers are in addition to the 100+ trainers, 800+ owners/breeders and 250+ industry professionals who have joined the Water Hay Oats Alliance, which is a founding member of the CHRI, and the leading opponent against the use of race-day medications.
"Horse racing in the United States has the most liberal drug rules among all international jurisdictions, especially when it comes to race-day medication," said Staci Hancock, co-founder and the managing member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance. "We need federal legislation to bring national uniformity to state-run racing jurisdictions, which is why WHOA and its members support the Horseracing Integrity Act."
The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity represents a diverse group of racing organizations, racetracks, owner and breeder associations, and animal welfare groups that support adoption of a national, uniform standard for drug and medication rules in horse racing. For more information and to read a copy of the proposed legislation, visit HorseRacingIntegrity.com. To support the Horseracing Integrity Act by signing the petition, visit HorseRacingIntegrity2019.com
Source: The Jockey Club
Anyone with a passing interest in Thoroughbred racing or animal welfare is very familiar with the breakdown of horses at Santa Anita Park during their winter/spring meeting.
This meet opened on December 26 and finished on June 23. There were a total of 30 breakdowns, including races and workouts. On March 14, Belinda Stronach, President and Chairman of the Stronach Group, presented an open letter on the future of Thoroughbred racing in California. Some of the important safety initiatives included:
There were two additional important proposed initiatives that are significant but do not relate directly to breakdowns. One is a restriction on the use of Lasix. Starting in 2020, no 2-year-old will be able to run on Lasix, and, in 2021, all Santa Anita stakes races will be Lasix-free. Secondly, the Stronach Group is proposing both structural changes in the composition of the whip and a dramatic reduction in how it can be used by the jockey. These two initiatives will have to go through the rule-making process, including consultation with horsemen, before they can be voted on by the California Horseracing Board.
Hollendorfer facts are hard to digest
On June 22, a horse of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer broke down on the Santa Anita training track and had to be euthanized. Unfortunately, this was the fourth Hollendorfer horse to break down, racing or training, during the meet, and he also had two breakdowns during the Golden Gate meet, which ended on June 2 and will re-open on August 15.
Later on June 22, Hollendorfer was told by the Stronach Group he would no longer be allowed to race or train at Santa Anita and that the four horses that he had entered on the final two days of Santa Anita were scratched.
The further facts are hard for me to digest, so I imagine how Hollendorfer must feel. He was elected to the National Racing Hall of Fame in 2011, lifetime he has won 7,617 races from a total of 33,519 entered, and until June 22 he had over 100 horses in training in California. Other than being ruled off by the Stronach Group, he does not appear to have heard any further details of why he was suspended.
Most racing jurisdictions have one organization for owners and trainers. However, in California the owners are represented by the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) and the trainers by their own organization, the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT). It is truly remarkable that, as of right now, the CTT has not come forward with a strong statement of support for Hollendorfer, who remains a licensee in good standing with the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).
An industry that has lost its soul
In sum, the industry is not full of change agents seeking new challenges and changing the business. However, as I tried to outline above, we are desperate to change in many areas. We need to identify and eliminate the cheaters in the game. We also need to protect the interests of our owners, breeders and employees to assure them that we run an honest business that works in the interests of all participants.
If we try to stand still with existing policies and business practices, we are only going to go backwards. I wrote what I thought was a very important article back on April 2. It was primarily stimulated by the most powerful case for reform in U.S. Thoroughbred racing and breeding that I have ever read: Vision 2025. If you are invested or interested in the U.S. Thoroughbred industry, you have to read this nine-page report.
I truly believe we are an industry that has lost its soul and its determination. We so desperately need the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019 and the important changes in the business model that the legislation requires. As I have tried to outline above, our current collection of industry organizations and regulatory bodies are simply going to bring the industry down. Please, no more ‘go along to get along’.
Source: Charles Hayward for TRC
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that it will support the passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R.961/S.2006) that would prevent the horse slaughter industry from reestablishing operations in the United States and prohibit the export of American horses abroad for slaughter. The action was taken at the regularly scheduled meeting of the NTRA Board of Directors held in New York on June 6.
“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is something the NTRA has opposed for many years,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “In the last decade alone, thousands of retired U.S. racehorses have been adopted and transitioned to second careers. The development and growth of quality racehorse aftercare programs continue to be a high priority for the industry.”
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) is a broad-based coalition of American horse racing interests consisting of leading thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations.