Numerous Best Practices Identified at Track and in Kentucky

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today announced that Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, has earned re-accreditation from the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. Located in Louisville, Ky., the track kicks off its annual Fall Meet on Sunday.

Churchill Downs’ re-accreditation followed a complete review of all racing operations at the facility. The flagship property of Churchill Downs Incorporated was the first racetrack to receive accreditation in 2009, the Alliance’s inaugural year. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.

During the latest Alliance inspection of Churchill Downs, best practices were identified in virtually every primary area of focus for the Alliance.

“It reflects well on the sport that our nation’s most famous racetrack continues to be a standard-bearer in protecting human and equine athletes,” said Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included the reporting of injuries and fatalities, pre- and post-race veterinary exam protocols and maintenance of a Veterinarians’ List conforming to Racing Commissioners International (RCI) Model Rules.

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Churchill Downs included adherence to RCI Model Rules pertaining to the use of cushioned riding crops, safety vests and padded starting gates, as well as  equine ambulances provided. Special commendation was noted for the detailed documentation collected every time the equine ambulance is used.

Other best practices noted at Churchill Downs related to a safer racing environment: substance abuse intervention and counseling, support of industry safety research, racing surface maintenance and measurement protocols, use by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission of the Uniform National Trainers Test, fire safety planning and procedures, sufficient security and support personnel for paddock safety, veterinary care availability, written protocols for regulatory veterinary operations and publication of House Rules in the condition book and on the Churchill Downs website.

Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included jockey weigh-out/weigh-in procedures, observation of the scale of weights and Jockey Health Information System protocols.

In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included alkalinizing agent regulation and TCO2 testing procedures, exogenous anabolic steroids regulation, frozen sample testing and Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) accreditation of the track’s official testing laboratory, HFL Sports Science.

Churchill Downs also was cited for best practices in security protocols, specifically in the areas of license validation, ejection reporting, terrorist threat preparation, availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), a proactive safety committee, barn area patrols, local police and fire department coordination and use of a toll-free, bilingual integrity hotline.

Relating to wagering security, best practices at Churchill Downs included strict adherence to uniform wagering incident prevention and investigation protocols.

“We place the highest priority on the health, welfare and safety of our equine and human athletes for every race, every day,” said Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “Safety is an issue that everyone in the industry equally shares responsibility for, from breeders and trainers to jockeys and racetracks. We’re passionate about our commitment, and we’ll continue as an industry leader to further the sport, maximize health and safety measures and do what’s right to further the sport.”

The re-accreditation of Churchill Downs was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track’s completion of a 48-page written application and continued as Churchill hosted several meetings with Alliance officials. The on-site review included inspections of all facets of the racing facility, with special attention paid to areas that were newly added to the Alliance’s Code of Standards in 2012 and 2013. Such areas containing new or more stringent requirements include the establishment of an injury review committee; starting-gate-removal protocols; recording and storage of racing surface data; regulatory veterinarian protocols and procedures; and post parade/starting gate scratch protocols. Interviews were also conducted with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, stewards and fans.

The inspection team was comprised of Ron Jensen, DVM, former equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board; Richard Lewis, former trainer and Northern California racing executive; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant and past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators (ORI); and Ziegler.

Churchill Downs is one of 24 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance. Among them are the three other racetracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. – Arlington Park, Calder Casino and Race Course and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots – as well as Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, Betfair Hollywood Park, Canterbury Park, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fairplex Park, Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park, Monmouth Park, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Suffolk Downs, Sunland Park, Turfway Park and Woodbine.

The Alliance, formed in October 2008 with the goal of establishing national uniform standards in the areas of safety and integrity, includes 55 racetracks in North America and every major national horsemen’s organization. Alliance certification standards cover six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; safety research; and wagering security. Within those six categories, specific standards focus on areas including:

  • Systematic reporting of equine injuries
  • Aftercare of racehorses
  • Pre- and post-race veterinary examinations
  • Post-mortem examinations
  • Health and safety of jockeys
  • Riding crops and their use
  • Horse shoes and hoof care
  • Safety research
  • Safety equipment for jockeys and horse handlers
  • Exogenous Anabolic Steroids
  • Alkalinizing agents (TCO2)
  • On-track emergency medical care for humans and equines
  • Out-of-competition testing
  • Freezing and retrospective testing of post-race samples
  • Continuing education
  • Security assessment and training
  • Totalizator technology and “stop wagering” protocols
  • Wagering incident investigation

The NTRA Safety and 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 Pfizer Animal Health, FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Information on the Alliance, including the Alliance Code of Standards, can be found at