By: Eric Mitchell
With relatively little discussion, a proposed rule outlining conditions that could void a claim was unanimously approved Jan. 26 by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Safety and Welfare Committee.
The proposed rule next goes to the full KHRC for review and approval. If approved, the proposed rule change goes through the standard procedures as any state law change, meaning review and approval by legislative committees and a public commenting period, before it can become law.
The proposal would allow a claim made at a Kentucky racetrack to be voided if the horse dies or is euthanized before it leaves the track or if it is put on the vet’s list for an injury or unsoundness prior to being transferred to the person who made the claim. Under the proposal, the person making the claim has the option of agreeing to the claim even if the horse is put on the vet’s list, which would apply to a horse that is valuable as a breeding prospect.
Under current rules, a claim can only be voided if the horse fails a post-race drug test or the paperwork was filled out incorrectly.
The main concern among committee members was that the new rule—particularly the provision requiring a declaration of whether the claim will be accepted if the horse is put on the vet’s list—is clearly conveyed and understood by everyone involved. To address this, the committee proposed that the new provision be spelled out on the claim slip and be posted near the claim box.
“It has to be as clear as possible, because it could get dicey if there is a misunderstanding,” said committee member Bret Jones.
A person who puts in a claim also will have the right to request that the horse be drug tested. If the horse had not already been identified for testing by the stewards, then the person making the claim would be required to pay for the test.
Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said he was concerned about voiding claims because a horse got injured during a race.
“I can appreciate what we’re saying about a horse being lame, but for something that happens in a race, I’m having a hard time wrapping my arms around that,” Maline said. “It seems the original owner should not be penalized for a racing accident. For so many years, this was buyer beware.”
KHRC medical director Mary Scollay said she researched the number of horses that have been put on the vet’s list for a racing accident instead of lameness and found them to be a very small percentage of the racehorse population.
“It is a rarity,” she said, adding that if a horse only got a superficial injury in a race, then the original owner still has the opportunity to let the horse heal and run it again. “Given the frequency of the events, it didn’t make sense to have a carve-out for that and then expect the veterinarians to discern what was a pre-existing pathology versus an accident-related injury.”
Scollay also stressed that the proposed voided claim rule does not allow the person making the claim to take a horse back to a barn to “take some radiographs and kick the tires to be sure they still want the horse.” The decision regarding the vet’s list are made by state-commissioned veterinarians who won’t know whether a horse has been claimed at the time of the post-race exam.
“This incentivizes a long-term commitment to the health of the horse,” Scollay said after the meeting. “It influences the decision making by the trainer about running the horse if he knows there is a good chance the horse is coming back. Healthy horses compete better than compromised horses and that’s good for everyone—the owners, the trainers, and the bettors.”
Seven other states—Arkansas, California, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania—have adopted some version of a voided claim rule.
Other action taken by the Safety and Welfare Committee included approval of the following new rule proposals:
• Requirement that vets report all shockwave treatments prior to administration. Current law allows treatments to be reported within 24 hours of treatment.
• Requirement that all first-time starters 5 years old and older must be approved by a commission veterinarian before starting,
• Requirement that any horse that has not raced within the previous 365 days get approval to start by a commission veterinarian, and
• All fillies and mares that have been in foal 120 days or more will be ineligible to race.