By: Tom LaMarra
The Racing Officials Accreditation Program hopes to make progress this year on protocol that will keep horses placed on various lists from showing up and racing at other tracks while ineligible under current guidelines.
Some jurisdictions adhere to reciprocity for horses placed on lists by stewards, starters, and state veterinarians, but others do not, officials said April 11 during the ROAP spring conference atDelaware Park.
ROAP, as one of its 2016 points of emphasis, said reciprocity of lists is “vital for horse and rider safety.” Primary issues are liability if an ineligible horse races and the chance such a horse and its rider suffer a serious injury.
“We’re working with regulatory vets to try to unify the system,” ROAP coordinator Cathy O’Meara said.
Dave Hooper, the head state steward at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, said there have been cases over the past three years in which horses from Turf Paradise in Arizona raced at Canterbury while on the vet’s list—but not the Turf Paradise list. The horses apparently were on the vet’s list in California but were permitted to race in Arizona; Canterbury officials weren’t aware because the horses weren’t on the vet’s list at Turf Paradise.
Officials said Hooper’s example is proof of the importance of reciprocity and recordkeeping when it comes to determining the eligibility of racehorses.
ROAP chairman Hugh Gallagher, the New York Racing Association safety steward, raised the question of lawsuits that could result should ineligible horses run and earn checks at the expense of other horses that are eligible.
“I’m not so sure that day will come, but one way to prevent it is to honor lists,” he said.
Dr. Ted Hill, who retired as The Jockey Club steward for NYRA late last year, said ROAP should make reciprocity of lists a high priority given the potential fallout.
“ROAP is aware (of the problem), and the stewards are clearly aware of it,” Hill said. “Sooner or later a horse is going to slip through and have a catastrophic injury—it may be totally unrelated to the initial problem—and a rider will get seriously injured or worse. I concern myself at the exposure. You may let something happen innocently enough but it can come back to get you.”
“Without some progress on this issue by us, it could be devastating,” he said. “The answer to this riddle is chasing the executive directors (of racing regulatory agencies) because they set policy and are the ones that have to understand what the issue is because of the criticality of what the consequences can be.
“We shouldn’t be having this discussion. It’s neglect and laziness.”
ROAP officials noted the situation is complicated by pressures on racing offices by tracks, and on trainers by owners, to run as many horses as possible.
ROAP officials noted almost every racing office in the United States has access to the InCompass RTO System, which contains the lists from each track. ROAP offers a tutorial on how to properly use the lists.