What is the Safety and Integrity Alliance and why it was founded?
The NTRA announced the creation of the Safety and Integrity Alliance, comprised of the largest tracks and horsemen’s groups in the U.S. and Canada, in October 2008 with the goal of making it the standing organization with the purpose of implementing safety and integrity reforms. The Alliance also functions as a certification/accreditation body for the purpose of recognizing and incentivizing compliance by all stakeholders.
Since its inception, the Alliance has helped spearhead reforms in the areas of improved medication and testing policies, guidelines for injury reporting and prevention, safety research, providing a safer racing environment, and post-racing care for retired race horses. The decline in the rate of equine fatalities has coincided with the existence of the Alliance – there has been a 16% drop in the rate across all surfaces, an 11% drop on dirt, a 38% drop on turf, and a 17% drop on synthetic surfaces since 2009.
Beginning in March 2012, racetracks have been able to voluntarily publish their statistics from the Equine Injury Database in the Safety Initiatives section of The Jockey Club website. On average, the lowest average rate of equine fatalities (1.45) was seen among tracks that disclose their fatality rates and are accredited by the Safety and Integrity Alliance.
What are some of the progress that has come about as a result?
- Helped create in conjunction with the University of Kentucky Ag Equine Programs a Racecourse Manager Certification from the University of Kentucky. The curriculum will be designed for those already engaged in careers with racing surface maintenance crews with an eye toward stepping into leadership roles.
- The Alliance co‐founded and produced the June, 2018 “RMTC/NTRA Regulatory Veterinary Continuing Education” program (RegVetCE), a first of its kind continuing education conference for regulatory and official racetrack veterinarians.
- Significantly improved enforcement of safety helmet and safety vest standards; Kentucky (Ellis), Illinois, West Virginia, Parx, Canterbury
- Advocated on behalf of and preserved ambulance/medical standards and staffing. NYRA, Woodbine, Parx, Golden Gate
- Identified and advocated for improvements and standardization of pre‐race examination procedures and more effective utilization of InCompass Solutions system; Florida, Maryland, Arlington
- Kick‐started major overhauls of regulatory veterinary programs in three jurisdictions; West Virginia, Maryland, Arlington.
What is the Alliance Code of Standards?
The Alliance maintains and updates its industry Code of Safety and Integrity Standards based on in the field findings, consultation with regulators and industry participants, and collaboration with other industry organizations focused on safety and integrity. A broad‐based Alliance Advisory Board as well as the NTRA Board of Directors approve updates to the Code of Standards. As the Code of Standards evolves, so too does Alliance outreach as we implement the current industry agenda on a track‐by‐track basis. Recent additions, updates and changes to the Code of Standards have focused on the following areas:
- Veterinarians’ List
- Void Claim
- Trainer Treatment Records
- 30‐Day Records for reporting corticosteroid and intra‐articular injections for claimed horses
- Race Cancellation Policy, including lightning cancel/delay standards
- Infectious Disease Management (AAEP Guidelines update)
- Test barn and test sample chain of custody best practices guidelines
- Jockey scale audit and calibration requirements
- Complete redraft of Wagering Security standards
- Enhanced standards for Emergency Track Warning Systems
- Implemented Official Testing Laboratory Selection and Performance Standards (i.e. standardized RFP)
What are some of the improvements the industry has made with regards to safety and welfare?
- Increased regulatory veterinary presence at the track during training hours and monitoring of horses: ie – using reports provided by The Jockey Club’s InCompass Solutions software to examine horses considered to be at an increased risk for injury.
- The Safety and Welfare Summit. Held for the first time in 2006, the Safety and Welfare summit has led to numerous innovations such as the creation of the Equine Injury Database (launched by The Jockey Club in July 2008) and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (launched in 2009).
- The Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory has been a pioneer in creating a Maintenance Quality System (MQS), which utilizes both daily measurements and enhanced techniques to manage racing surfaces with a goal of creating consistency. This is done in part by using laboratory testing of the track material, inspection of the base and cushion using ground-penetrating radar, and inspection of the overall performance and consistency of the surface using the Biomechanical Surface Tester
- The creation of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium. Since its inception over a decade ago, the RMTC has worked tirelessly to develop and promote uniform rules and testing standards at the national level; coordinate research and educational programs that seek to ensure the integrity of racing and the health and welfare of racehorses and participants; and to protect the interests of the racing public. Those efforts have culminated in the National Uniform Medication Program.
- The launch of the Safety and Integrity Alliance. Launched in 2008, the Alliance has focused on compliance standards covering six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; safety equipment and a safer racing environment; medication and testing; health and safety of jockeys; aftercare of equine athletes; and wagering security.
- Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. The Grayson-Jockey Club board announced a slate of 18 research projects which the Foundation will fund for a total of $1,239,083 in 2018. The allotment brings the Foundation’s total impact since 1983 to over $26.3 million to fund 358 projects at 43 universities. Specific example: Grayson supported the cryotherapy that likely minimized the devastating effect laminitis could have had Lady Eli’s hooves when the filly develop signs of laminitis in both front feet after stepping on a nail in 2015. Lady Eli was not only able to return to the races, but do so at a championship level earning the Eclipse Award in 2017 for champion turf female.
- Sound Retirement/Responsible Aftercare. Programs like the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance have helped find second careers and homes for thousands of racehorses over the past 10 years. Since its inception in 2012, the TAA has granted more than $13.8 million to accredited organizations such as the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, The Exceller Fund and New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program. New Vocations alone has had over 6,000 retired Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds placed in qualified since its inception in 1992. These horses have come from 40 different racetracks and have been adopted by families throughout the country.
- Since its inception in 1990, Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) has granted over $23 million to more than 200 charities. TCA is the charitable arm of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA).
The NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance establishes standards and practices to promote safety and integrity in horseracing and secures their implementation. The Alliance’s full Code of Standards is available here. Steve Koch, executive director of the Alliance, is always available for comment on matters pertaining to the safety of human and equine athletes, as well as the integrity of the sport.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners’ On Call program makes media-trained equine veterinarians available to answer questions about veterinary medicine and respond to crisis situations. The On Call program is offered during all live-broadcast racing events, including the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup, and arena events such as the AQHA World Championship Show.
The Equine Injury Database is the industry’s national database of racing injuries and includes comparable annual fatality rates dating back to 2009.
The New York State Gaming Commission has its own detailed, searchable list of every horse that has broken down, died, sustained a serious injury or been involved in an incident at a track in New York State since 2009: https://breakdown.gaming.ny.gov/