by Edited Press Release
In the wake of a troubling increase in the number of equine fatalities over the Aqueduct inner dirt track this winter, the New York Racing Association and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association met on Saturday morning to address the issue and distributed separate press releases.
The New York Racing Association cares deeply about, and takes very seriously, the health and safety of its equine athletes and jockeys at Aqueduct Racetrack. Live racing at Aqueduct operates on track surfaces which are frequently and vigorously inspected by both in-house professionals and outside independent experts, and continue to be found safe.
In addition, starting with the publication of the recommendations of the 2012 New York Task Force report on Racehorse Health and Safety, and continuing through the current winter meet, the New York Racing Association, working with the New York State Gaming Commission and other stakeholders, have implemented a comprehensive set of policies, procedures and best practices to improve equine safety. Following release of the 2012 report, the New York Racing Association:
•Required trainers to maintain records of cortical corticosteroid administrations.
•Limited purse-to-claim ratios to de-incentivize racing horses with potential health problems.
•Created an independent veterinary structure within the New York Racing Association.
•Established a mechanism by which jockeys can anonymously report health or safety violations.
The New York Racing Association has also gone beyond those Task Force recommendations and taken additional measures to ensure the safety of our equine athletes and jockeys, including the following:
•Created a committee of the Board of Directors that specifically addresses issues of equine safety.
•Created the position of Safety Steward, and thereafter filling it with Hugh Gallagher, a nationally recognized expert on equine safety and medication.
•Gave our attending veterinarians full and independent authority to scratch a horse at any time for any reason.
In 2014, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s (NTRA) Safety and Integrity Alliance re-accredited Aqueduct Racetrack. According to Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, “All of the New York Racing Association tracks, including Aqueduct, continue to meet or exceed industry standards in the most critical areas pertaining to safety and integrity.” (NTRA Release 3/14/14)
The NTRA review of Aqueduct found that the New York Racing Association utilized best practices identified in virtually every primary area of focus for the Alliance, which includes:
•In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included the reporting of injuries and fatalities, pre- and post-race veterinary examinations and the use of an Injury Review Committee.
•In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Aqueduct included equine ambulance staffing, equipment and protocols; equine ambulance procedures and equipment; substance abuse and addiction treatment, with special commendation given for the establishment of a sober living dormitory, and testing of licensees; racing surface maintenance protocols; and sufficient security and support personnel for paddock safety.
•Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included sufficient rider medical care and ambulance support; protocols for post parade or starting gate scratches; Jockey Health Information System protocols; and minimum accident medical expense coverage ($1 million) for all jockeys.
•In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included exogenous anabolic steroids regulation and Shockwave therapy regulation and protocols.
•Relating to safety research, best practices were cited for participating in, and funding, a number of research programs geared toward the betterment of racing.
In December 2014, prior to the current Aqueduct meet, the New York Racing Association proactively secured an independent review of Aqueduct’s inner track led by Dr. Michael Peterson, Executive Director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and the Libra Foundation Professor for the College of Engineering at the University of Maine. Dr. Peterson returned January 5 and 6 to further evaluate the track.
“New York has set the bar for the standard of care of racetrack surfaces. What stands out in New York is the record-keeping and the ability to compare measurements from year to year,” said Dr. Peterson. “Dr. Scott Palmer and I sat down and compared everything from last year to this year and asked, ‘Has anything changed for the track?’ With all the extensive measurements – not unlike that of an aircraft checklist – there is nothing that stands out