The Thoroughbred Safety Committee
New Recommendations
Stuart S. Janney III Stuart S. Janney III

Stuart S. Janney III: There have been a lot of opinions put forth since May 3 concerning the state of our sport and what's wrong with it, many on supposition and anecdotal evidence. The goal of the safety committee is, as Dr. Bramlage said, to be able to preface our statements with "the data shows" as opposed to "we believe."

On the subject of breeding, we know that the market has changed. Fifteen years ago, approximately 23% of the foal crop was offered as yearlings at public auction. It's 36% of the 2006 foal crop. But that's due to economics. Does it mean we are breeding a more fragile horse? That's not what the data is telling us.

What we do know is that we are out of step with the rest of the world when it comes to medication. We have too much of it and, as Alan Foreman pointed out, with few exceptions, our drug testing infrastructure is far from efficient and effective. So we need to reconcile our drug policies on race day administration of Lasix and withdrawal times for therapeutic medications, with the rest of the world. And those two items are at the top of the committee's priority list going forward.

But in the short term there are a number of things that we can do. Eliminating the use of anabolic steroids from racing is a good start. At the time we released our recommendation on this matter in June, 10 states had already adopted the RMTC model rule on anabolic steroids, and another 12 states were in the process. Today, 12 have adopted it and 18 are in the process. That's progress.

This month, both the Breeders' Cup and TOBA's Graded Stakes Committee flatly stated that the RMTC steroid rule must be in place by January 1, 2009, in order for racetracks to receive Breeders' Cup purse supplements and have their stakes races graded. That's progress.

Earlier this week, the TRA board of directors pledged the commitment of the TRA member tracks to work with racing commissions in their jurisdictions to implement the elimination of anabolic steroids by the end of 2008. More progress.

Keeping to the subject of medication, you heard from Dr. Arthur about the progress that California has made to curb bicarbonate loading in horses on race day. Once again, we have a situation where proper science has been conducted and sound conclusions have been reached - in this case by the RMTC - but implementation by the industry has been inconsistent at best.

So the committee is calling for the adoption of RMTC recommendations on the prohibition of the use of milkshaking substances by the RCI Model Rules Committee, the RCI Board of Directors and all state racing commissions.

These recommendations were put forward to state racing commissions and the RCI Model Rules Committee almost one year ago, and the committee is of the strong opinion that further delay is unjustified and inexcusable. As a result, and as an interim measure, we are calling on all North American racetracks to implement these recommended best practices by house rule.

The RMTC recommendations establish uniform threshold levels, pre-race testing protocols, and effective testing procedures.

The committee also strongly encourages all state racing commissions to publish the TCO2 levels of each horse tested to ensure the public that testing is being conducted and participants are below the regulatory thresholds.

You heard a thorough and passionate report from Alan Foreman on the state of our drug testing labs. At its board meeting yesterday, the Stewards of The Jockey Club agreed to underwrite the cost of a business plan for the most efficient and cost-effective infrastructure for equine drug testing and research.

In addition, the committee is calling for the creation of a task force to:

  • One: develop strict equine drug testing laboratory standards;
  • Two: develop a uniform request for proposal from state racing commissions for drug testing laboratory services that requires adherence to those standards; and
  • Three: develop and maintain a facility to store frozen samples for future analysis.

Another recommendation today is on the subject of uniform penalties. The RMTC has developed uniform classification guidelines and penalties, and submitted those to the RCI Model Rules Committee. In this case the RCI has adopted those guidelines as a model rule, and as a result the committee is calling for the immediate adoption and implementation by all state racing commissions of those rules.

This is one area where neither horsemen, racetracks or industry organizations can achieve the necessary uniformity. It must come from the 38 state racing commissions themselves. The leadership to press them into action has to come from RCI.

Our final recommendation calls for the RCI Model Rules Committee, its board of directors, and all state and provincial racing commissions to institute a model rule that would mandate participation in the Equine Injury Database as a condition of licensing.

Thus far participation in the Equine Injury Database reporting system has been voluntary and we are pleased to report that since the program was launched less than three weeks ago, 53 racetracks have signed agreements with The Jockey Club to participate. The committee believes that mandating participation is one more step toward national uniformity.

In the meantime, to all of those racetracks listed on the screen behind me, we thank you for stepping forward and demonstrating leadership on this critical industry initiative. And to those racetracks that have not as yet signed your agreements, we ask you to do so without further delay. As you heard from Dr. Scollay, having a national injury reporting system is the only way for this industry to identify the cause of injury and to take remedial action so as to minimize injuries in the future.

There will be additional recommendations forthcoming but we don't have a calendar or a deadline. This committee is a standing committee of The Jockey Club, so it doesn't end today.

We will look at racing surfaces. We will look longer and harder at medication, especially Lasix.

We will continue to study breeding trends and we will study the issue of field size, particularly in the Kentucky Derby. We will also examine the treatment and use of racehorses when their racing careers have ended.

The industry has made a lot of progress in a short period of time, but there is a lot of work ahead of us. To those who say that this industry cannot speak with one voice on key issues, success stories like the development of the Equine Injury Database and the steady progress being made to ban anabolic steroids and front shoe apparatus are the best response.

We are challenged by our decentralized regulatory structure, but we cannot let that be an excuse to fail.

The committee has been guided in its work by our desire to do what is right for the safety and well-being of the horse and the rider and by the need to change the public's perception of our industry.

If the Eight Belles tragedy makes us all more cooperative, less inward-looking, more proactive and more sensitive to how our sport is perceived by others, then Eight Belles may be viewed in years to come as one of the most important race horses ever to step on a track.

Let's hope so, and thank you for your attention.

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