Back in November, the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition took flight with the goal of setting standards and best practices aimed at improving safety and accountability for the equine industry. The catalyst was the troubles at Santa Anita Park which cast a black cloud over the world of horse racing.
The group’s founding members – Breeders’ Cup, Churchill Downs, Del Mar, Keeneland, New York Racing Association, and The Stronach Group – have since been hard at work crafting a plan.
In comments to BloodHorse, Donna Brothers, strategic adviser for the coalition, provided further insight on the progress made to date and the information that can now easily be found online.
“Protecting our athletes requires an industry-wide effort that touches on every facet of the Thoroughbred racing community, from breeding and sales, to training and racing, to the emergency policies we have in place for a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Our sport is only as healthy as its athletes, and strengthening accountability is a necessary step towards making their safety and well-being everyone’s top priority,” said Brothers. “This new tool is an important way for our members to continue to hold themselves, and each other, accountable while encouraging other organizations to join us in our pursuit of increased transparency.”
On the accountability side, updates are provided on reforms being worked towards at both the Track- and Coalition-Level. For each of the reforms, tracks which have implemented the changes are noted, as are those that remain a work in progress.
It’s important to note that participation in the coalition isn’t mandatory, and several major operators have yet to sign on as a result. Included on that list are tracks such as Los Alamitos Race Course, Oaklawn Park, and those in the Penn National Gaming family.
Regardless, it’s clear that the coalition has made some nice progress in attempting to bring some semblance of uniformity to an industry in need of that on the safety front. On the reform page, there’s a clear list of the specific goals being worked towards, which are broken down into three categories.
Included on the list of medical reforms are items such as ‘Prohibit concurrent usage of multiple corticosteroids,’ and Regulate extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT).’
Operational initiatives include ‘Mandate direct daily reporting by vets to regulatory officials,’ and ‘Enforce minimum timed thoroughbred working requirements.’
On the organizational front, action items include ‘Standardize protocols for ensuring jockey health and wellness,’ and ‘Mandate increased licensing requirements for trainers.’
As Brothers added, the goal of the coalition is to not only affect changes, but also to be proactive by making it crystal clear what needs to be implemented right away to avoid further problems.
“We wanted to make sure there were enough medication, organizational, and operational reforms on there to make it meaningful,” Brothers said. “From the time the coalition was formed, it was with the intent to implement meaningful reforms that could be put in place imminently, rather than wait for a government body to be involved.”
The current operating environment makes for a perfect time for tracks across the nation to implement changes where needed, improve operations, and to aim for coming back to business stronger than ever.
Tracks that have continued to operate during the Covid-19 crisis have already stepped it up on the safety front, and it’s tough to envision a future in which those practices are halted.
The TSC has also taken the ball and run with it in the form of actionable information and reasonable targets to shoot for with other safety measures, so tracks that need the assistance have a clear blueprint to follow.