The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that Belmont Park, home of the Belmont Stakes, has earned reaccreditation from the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance. Located in Elmont, N.Y., on Long Island, just outside of New York City, the track kicks off its Spring/Summer Meet today.
The 59-day season runs through July 17 and is highlighted by one of America’s premier racing days on June 11 with the $1.5 million Belmont headlining a stakes extravaganza that includes six Grade 1 events.
The reaccreditation of Belmont Park – owned and operated by the New York Racing Association (NYRA) – was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track’s completion of an extensive written application and continued as the track hosted several meetings with Alliance officials. An on-site review included inspections of all facets of the racing operations. Interviews were conducted with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, veterinarians, stewards and regulators.
The inspection team was comprised of Ron Jensen, DVM, veterinary and regulatory consultant, former equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant, past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators; Steve Koch, executive director of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance; and Richard Lewis, racetrack operations consultant, a California Horse Racing Board Steward and former longtime California racing executive.
Alliance certification standards address an extensive list of safety and integrity concerns within six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication and testing; safety research; and wagering security.
“The New York Racing Association is continuously striving to create a safe environment for our equine and human athletes,” said NYRA Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Martin Panza. “We greatly appreciate the help that the NTRA provides in making us aware of best practices allowing NYRA to excel in this arena. Integrity is the foundation of our sport and NYRA couldn’t find a better partner in this than the NTRA through the accreditation program.”
Belmont is one of three racetracks that make up the NYRA franchise along with Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course. All three NYRA racetracks have been accredited since 2009, the Alliance’s first year. Accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.
The NTRA’s Koch, who coordinated the inspections, praised NYRA’s focus on safety and gave special recognition to Panza, as well as Vice President of Facilities & Racing Surfaces Glen Kozak, steward Braulio Baeza Jr., and safety steward Hugh Gallagher, for creating a culture of safety.
“Martin, Glen, Braulio, Hugh and the entire team that makes New York racing great bring tremendous results to the all-important safety and integrity mission,” said Koch. “The Alliance benefits and the entire industry benefits from their Best Practice mode of operations.”
Belmont Park is one of 23 racing facilities fully accredited by the Alliance – including all three of the NYRA tracks – that together host 94 percent of Grade 1 stakes and attract more than 70 percent of North American pari-mutuel handle. The others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park, Los Alamitos Race Course, Monmouth Park, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Suffolk Downs, Sunland Park, Turfway Park and Woodbine.
The NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance is a standing organization whose purpose is to establish standards and practices to promote safety and integrity in horseracing and to secure their implementation. Corporate partners of the Alliance include Lockton Insurance and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Information on the Alliance, including the Alliance Code of Standards, can be found at NTRAalliance.com.