Summer Safety Update

08.26.21

In November 2019, the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition’s founding members came together to strengthen the safety and integrity of racing so it can be enjoyed for generations to come. To date, we have adopted a total of 32 reforms aimed at modernizing our sport. And while the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, along with the U.S Anti-Doping Agency, is working towards regulation of our sport by July 2022, Coalition members continue to make strides on and off the track to advance a culture of safety throughout the industry. Recent Coalition member developments include:

  • Keeneland held its 2021 Spring Meet with no racing incidents thanks in large part to Dr. Brown and his team, who worked closely with horsemen, attending veterinarians, regulatory veterinarians and stewards to ensure the safety of all equine athletes competing at the track. Dr. Stuart Brown was subsequently awarded the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2021 Meritorious Service Award for his long record of service in equine health.
  • In March 2021, Del Mar Racetrack was recognized for the third consecutive year as one of the nation’s safest tracks based on annual data from The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database. The data demonstrated that 99.7 percent of racing during the 2020 season was conducted safely, with 2,357 starts in the summer and 1,060 starts in the fall.
  • The partnership between the University of California at Davis and Coalition tracks Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields has continued to yield multiple benefits including reduced diagnostic imaging costs and increased access to health screenings for racehorses in California. Hundreds of Thoroughbreds have been scanned since the genesis of the program and screenings have now expanded to include pleasure horses. These scans serve not only to prevent future injuries, but also to increase our understanding of pre-existing conditions in horses. 
  • NYRA, along with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) and New York Thoroughbred Breeders (NYTB), hosted the first ever New York Thoroughbred Aftercare Day at Saratoga on July 21. The event highlighted several aftercare programs in the state and showcased the new skills of retired Thoroughbreds after successful careers in the industry.
  • Churchill Downs is in the process of investing $10 million into a new turf course featuring a state-of-the-art irrigation and drainage system that will ensure an even safer and more consistent racing surface starting at the beginning of the 2022 Spring Meet.
  • On August 10, 1/ST RACING reopened the track at Laurel Park for workouts after expanded safety renovations were completed, including track resurfacing with a uniform four-inch cushion and improvements to the drainage system.
  • In early August, the California Horse Racing Board noted that equine fatalities in the state declined by 50 percent over the past two fiscal years due to regulations enacted by the Board as well as safety reforms implemented by industry leaders, namely 1/ST RACING, at the track-level.
  • Coalition members have also been hard at work successfully implementing a ban on race-day medication for all graded stakes races in 2021. In fact, the 2021 Triple Crown was the first time the historic series was conducted without such medication. Additionally, the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, along with the “Win And You’re In” Challenge Series, will also be free of race-day medication.
  • Coalition tracks were able to safely continue racing and training operations and reopen their doors to spectators sooner than most sports thanks to close coordination with public health officials and the adoption of health and safety protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • Finally, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency continue their work together to bring effective oversight to the sport. Dr. Tessa Muir was appointed to head the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s new equine program which will help fully implement the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act by July 2022. HISA has been supported by the Coalition and its members since its introduction in 2020.

Despite all these advancement in safety, we know safety is not a one race, one track or one-year issue, and there is no finish line when it comes to ensuring the safety of the horses and the integrity of the sport we love. We will never stop putting safety first – for our athletes, our horsemen, our fans and all members of our community. With racing scheduled throughout the fall and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships returning in November, Coalition members are committed to continuing a steady drumbeat of safety.