By: T.D. Thorton
Although a mandatory transfer of full veterinary records for claimed horses isn’t likely to happen soon, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) outlined plans Apr. 19 for a proposed new rule that would require a record of intra-articular injections to be passed from a previous owner to a new owner whenever a horse gets claimed.
The CHRB had been poised to take a first pass Thursday at advancing a rule pertaining to the transfer of “all existing veterinary medical records” for claimed horses. But after hearing input from trainers and veterinarians at a separate committee meeting earlier this week, the board opted to streamline that initiative to include only records of joint injections. Commissioner Madeline Auerbach said this compromise version of the new rule would likely surface on the agenda for the May CHRB meeting.
“We really did narrow the scope of what we were doing initially,” Auerbach said. “And what we are looking for is a methodology, a mechanism, of when a horse is claimed…that the records of injections will follow that horse’s claim.”
Auerbach added that a “last 30 days” record of injections is what could be proposed when the new rule comes up for vote.
Alan Balch, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, said that “we certainly agree with the urgency of getting this done,” so long as input from veterinarians is factored into the CHRB’s decision.
Auerbach agreed, adding that “based on my discussion with a lot of the different vets, they see no issue in us making that narrow [a scope of] information available at this time without further study.”
CHRB equine medical director Rick Arthur, DVM, said “the point is, we’re going to try to develop something that’s simple and reasonable that provides information that protects the health and welfare of the horse.”
Separately, a related rule-making vote that could preclude horses from racing within five days of receiving any intra-articular injection was postponed Thursday because only four CHRB members were in attendance. The full CHRB board is supposed to consist of seven commissioners, but only six right now have been appointed (Chuck Winner and Jesse Choper were absent).
The CHRB advanced by a 4-0 vote a proposed rule amendment that, if adopted after a 45-day public comment period, will now require the scratch of any newly gelded Thoroughbred if the change isn’t announced to the public before start of that day’s wagering.
The CHRB has been dealing with the issue of unannounced and/or unreported geldings for several years now. The current version of the rule, amended in 2017, states that any trainer who fails to report to the racing office the gelding of a horse be fined a mandatory minimum of $1,000. However, a loophole exists whereby the trainer might report the gelding properly, but racing officials, for whatever reason, might fail to communicate this change to the public, thus depriving them of pertinent betting information.
“The history of this rule was that the board a couple of years ago increased the fine to $1,000, and the intent of that was to hopefully eliminate these situations where a change was not made known to the public,” explained CHRB executive director Rick Baedeker. “But now that the horse is going to be scratched if the public is not aware [that it has been gelded], there’s no longer a need for the specific minimum $1,000 fine.”
To clarify, CHRB members stated that this rule won’t apply to first-time starters (because first-timers have no established statistical form that could be affected). The “start of wagering” was defined as being when betting pools for the entire day open (generally around 10:30 a.m. Pacific time). And it was also underscored that stewards could still impose a fine upon any “responsible party” at their discretion.
A 45-day public comment period now precedes a vote on this issue by the board to make these changes official. Until then, the existing version of the rule remains in effect.
The CHRB also advanced to the public comment stage by a 4-0 vote a proposed rule that would require trainers and assistant trainers to complete 12 hours of continuing education (CE) course work over a three-year period as a condition of licensure starting in 2020.
The development of how the program would work is just now being planned, but the bulk of the requirements would likely be able to be satisfied by online participation in “modules” that the CHRB could either compile on its own or outsource from existing entities. New York and Indiana have initiated similar programs (with varying degrees of participation success), and CHRB members said making the course work dually available in Spanish would be a priority.
“The real issue is getting trainers accustomed to the fact–as lawyers, veterinarians and physicians are–that CE is part of their professional responsibility,” said Arthur. “So it is a paradigm change.”