LEXINGTON, Ky. (Monday, October 26, 2015) – The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif., near San Diego, has earned reaccreditation from the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance.
Del Mar is a world-class Thoroughbred racing destination welcoming the industry’s top athletes and California’s most spirited partygoers during its summer and fall seasons. The 2015 Bing Crosby Meet opens Thursday and continues through Nov. 29.
The reaccreditation of Del Mar 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 Jim Gates, consultant and former general manager of Churchill Downs; Dr. Ron Jensen, DVM, former equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant and past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators; Steve Koch, executive director of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance; and Hugh Mecum, former New York State Gaming Commission investigator.
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, testing and penalties; safety research; and wagering security.
“Del Mar’s continuous emphasis on safety and integrity sets a fine example for our industry,” said Koch. “The Alliance congratulates the Del Mar team for setting high standards year after year.”
Del Mar received its initial accreditation in 2009, the Alliance’s first year. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.
“Safety is probably the most important thing we do at Del Mar,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President and CEO Joe Harper. “Making sure our horses and riders are in a safe and secure environment to compete is paramount to us – and a priority for all in this business. We’re proud and delighted to be recognized again by the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance for our hard work and extensive efforts in that regard.”
Del Mar is one of 23 racing facilities fully accredited by the Alliance that together host 94 percent of Grade I stakes and attract more than 70 percent of North American pari-mutuel handle. The others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, 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.
NTRA SAFETY & INTEGRITY PROFILE: DEL MAR’S KIM JACOBSON
Her title is Director of Risk Management, but Kim Jacobson’s role at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is perhaps better described in her own words as “being in charge of organized chaos.” Since assuming the position full-time in 2006, her responsibilities have expanded greatly as safety has become more of a trademark for the famed track by the Pacific Ocean in Del Mar, Calif., north of San Diego.
“I handle anything to do with health and safety at the racetrack, both on and off the track,” Jacobson says.
Her duties touch nearly every aspect of the operation: securing insurance policies, handling workers’ compensation, establishing emergency protocols, responding to patrons, overseeing medical crews, managing relationships with municipal services and even supervising a water conservation program. She is detail-oriented and admits to showing more of a Type A personality.
“I like dissecting situations after the fact to see how we could have responded better,” Jacobson says. “Any time there’s an incident here on track we work closely with the CHRB (California Horse Racing Board) safety steward to assess the situation. What worked? Did it go how it was supposed to go? And then we make adjustments to our protocols.”
Jacobson joined the Del Mar staff part-time in 2003 as an assistant to the Director of Risk Management. She had been the livestock coordinator for the San Diego County Fair, which is held annually at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. But it may have been her earlier experience as a small business owner that best prepared her for juggling many duties while remaining budget-minded.
“Having had my own business I constantly looked at ways to reduce cost,” Jacobson says. “Maybe that’s why I’m a little more sensitive to that than most people, because I was used to doing it where any costs were coming out of my own pocket.”
The reality in many industries is that the best way to rally support for safety initiatives is to demonstrate how those concerns can impact the bottom line. Jacobson says there’s no telling how much Del Mar has saved on insurance premiums by demonstrating a serious commitment to preventing accidents and responding quickly to incidents when they do happen.
“We all know insurance is outrageously expensive and at racetracks it’s even more expensive and difficult to get,” she says. “When the loss control representatives from the various companies come to visit I’m very proud to be able to show them our safety training, our loss control, our inspections, our emergency protocols. All of that contributes to the bottom line and when that individual starts pushing numbers at renewal time it contributes to a better renewal.”
Del Mar values the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance accreditation as an opportunity to have their commitment validated and promoted.
“It supports the industry and shows which tracks take an active role in supporting safety,” Jacobson says. “A lot of people out there don’t know the things that we do, both here at Del Mar and throughout the industry. We’re proud of it and the accreditation is a way to showcase what we do and share the information so that other tracks can hopefully take some of the same steps.”
In California there are multiple layers of safety accountability, as racetracks must answer to the CHRB-appointed “safety steward” assigned to each meet.
“We work very closely with that individual so they have someone to come to if they have an issue they want resolved or addressed,” Jacobson said. “We do all have the same goal, which is to protect every horse and human involved.”
Of the many positive developments Jacobson has helped to implement at Del Mar, she is most proud of their transition to staffing paramedics instead of basic EMTs anytime the track surface is open.
“I had a target on my back for a while because we were the first racetrack in California to do it,” Jacobson says. “When you make that move it kind of forces the other tracks to keep up and it’s a huge expense. But this represents the best emergency response we can bring to the exercise riders and the jockeys.”
That drive to be a model for the industry permeates the entire operation at Del Mar, which is why it’s been a favorite of fans and horsemen for more than 75 years. Yet the staff recognizes that despite its reputation, safety is a job that’s never done.
“I tell everybody that you can put it on paper but if you don’t institute it and don’t stay active in doing it then it doesn’t have any meaning,” Jacobson says. “It’s constantly evolving and you have to make sure everyone knows it and understands it.”
Del Mar’s Bing Crosby Meet opens Thursday and continues through Nov. 29.