By: Frank Vespe
In advance of the 2016 Delaware Park meeting, the state’s Thoroughbred Racing Commission approved at its April 6 meeting a final rule allowing for claims to be voided when a claimed horse dies during a race or is euthanized on the track immediately following the race. The rule will be in place when Delaware Park opens for live racing May 21.
That rule brings the state partway into conformity with its nearby neighbors. Both Pennsylvania and Maryland have void-claim rules similar to, but more far-reaching than, the new Delaware rule. In both states, in addition to voiding the claims on deceased horses, successful claimants have the option for one hour following the race to void the claim of any horse that the state veterinarian decides must be vanned off the track.
Maryland adopted its void-claim rule in two steps in 2013 and 2014; Pennsylvania implemented its rule last year.
“When Philly changed it is when the Delaware Commission said, ‘We want to be more uniform with the region,’” said Michael Gorham, president of the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
While advocates of the rule typically have promoted it as advancing the health and welfare of horses, Gorham, who said he supports the rule, said he couldn’t think of a single instance last season when it would have applied and very few instances in his career. His first wins as the trainer of record came in 1985.
But Gorham points to another benefit of the void-claim rule as particularly important.
“I think it will help, moreso for new owners trying to get in the game,” he said. “It gives them a little security.”
Commission executive director John Wayne likewise pointed to both benefits.
“The first reason was to protect the health and welfare of the horses,” he said. “We don’t want people to put horses in just to get rid of them.
Wayne said that the Commission had considered and rejected an expanded rule similar to those in place in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
“Our commissioners thought it was better to keep it pretty simple,” he explained. “They felt that there’s too much gray area when you get into horses being vanned off.”
The Commission does have, he pointed out, a rule allowing claimants to void claims when a horse tests positive following a race.
The Commission also adopted a pair of other new rules.
One would permit the stewards to allow a horse to race without its foal papers as long as the connections provide the registration certificate within 48 hours, while the other requires “every individual” on horseback or at the starting gate to wear an approved helmet and safety vest.
The first change, said Gorham, will help the racetrack to avoid late scratches, given the sport’s antiquated rules requiring trainers to cart the actual paper registration with them. And the latter, he said, is the Commission’s effort “to stay in line with the health and welfare of the riders.”
“Safety equipment should not be compromised,” Wayne said of the safety vest rule, noting that he personally had seen several instances where riders had endangered themselves by using substandard safety gear.
Wayne said that the foal paper rule will allow the stewards to permit a horse to run when the stewards are confident that it is the correct horse. He said that even in a case when a horse is allowed to run, the trainer may still be fined for failure to have the papers on file.
Also new since the close of last year’s Delaware Park meet, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) and Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) have added four new drugs to the controlled therapeutic medications list, bringing the total number on that list to 30.
New since the last meet are
- cimetidine — threshold level of 400 ng/ml of plasma or serum and a recommended withdrawal time of 24 hours;
- ranitidine — threshold level of 40 ng/ml of plasma or serum and a recommended withdrawal time of 24 hours;
- cetirizine — threshold level of 6 ng/ml of plasma or serum and a recommended withdrawal time of 48 hours; and
- guaifensin — threshold level of 12 ng/ml of plasma or serum and a recommended withdrawal time of 48 hours.Delaware adopts new ARCI medication rules by inference.
Opening day for the 81-card Delaware Park meet is May 21. DTHA sources report that the track’s barns are filling up as new outfits head to Stanton.