As tracks across the nation look forward to a future which includes hosting live horse racing events in front of fans, safety is at the top of mind. Exactly what that will look like is still being ironed out, and there will likely be some variations depending on locale.
While spectator safety is of the utmost importance, the same holds true for those who work in the equine industry. Last week, we shared an update from the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition on its reform initiative.
On Tuesday, another group shared some industry recommendations which aim to “further improve the health, welfare, and safety of its equine athletes.”
In a release, the Thoroughbred Safety Committee, a group that was created in 2008 and is affiliated with The Jockey Club, shared a trio of recommendations which it feels will help to improve things on an overall basis across the industry.
- Increased self-reporting statistics from the Equine Injury Database
- Mandatory stand-down period for horses in the care of trainers determined to be in possession of or intending to administer illegal substances to racehorses
- Banning the presence of clenbuterol in Thoroughbred racehorses and Thoroughbreds consigned for public auction
Craig Fravel, chairman of the Thoroughbred Safety Committee and chief executive officer, Racing Operations, The Stronach Group, provided further insight on the recommendations, which resulted from a meeting of the committee back in March. From the release:
“As with most of the world, our industry is facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also facing challenges from within,” said Craig Fravel, chairman of the Thoroughbred Safety Committee and chief executive officer, Racing Operations, The Stronach Group. “At this critical time, it is more important than ever that we ensure our industry is taking the best care of its horses and holding stakeholders accountable for their actions.”
“Two items The Jockey Club has advocated for over the years are increased transparency into the health and safety of horses and that horses should compete only when free from medication,” said James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer, The Jockey Club. “Implementing these recommendations will show that our industry is serious about the future of our sport and the health and welfare of our equine athletes.
“We commend Keeneland Association, Fasig-Tipton Company and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company for recently announcing restrictions on the use of several medications at sales. We encourage racing regulatory authorities to follow this example and eliminate the use of clenbuterol in racing.”
Gagliano also took the time to address a recent and unwelcome black eye that the horse racing industry continues to come to terms with, which also served as inspiration for the recommendations.
“The recent indictments of 27 individuals with regard to illegal performance-enhancing drugs demonstrate the need to have rules that protect the health and safety of Thoroughbreds from the uncertain and potentially dangerous effects of these substances,” he said.
As the release mentions, several operators have already taken steps towards restricting the use of a number of different medications. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before additional industry professionals get behind that initiative and do the same.
The recent wave of announcements with an eye towards safety are a huge positive. Since horse racing remains on hold at numerous locations, there’s no time like the present to work on situations that are in need of improvement.
The Thoroughbred Safety Committee is among those that are leading the charge and deserve a tip of the cap for doing so. It’ll be interesting to see what else is to come on this front, both from the perspective of equine athlete safety and for the eventual return to normalcy for horse racing.