Numerous Best Practices Identified at Tracks in Advance of Signature Stakes

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today announced that two of the nation’s premier racetracks – Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif. – have earned re-accreditation from the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. Both venues are set to host their signature races this weekend, with the $1 million Travers for 3-year-olds at Saratoga on Saturday and the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic for older horses at Del Mar on Sunday.

The re-accreditation follows a complete review of all racing operations at the facilities. Saratoga and Del Mar each received their initial accreditation in 2009, the Alliance’s first year, and have maintained compliance since. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.

“With the biggest races of the summer approaching, it is important for fans and horsemen alike to realize that Saratoga and Del Mar are accredited by the Alliance and provide a safe racing environment for their participants,” said Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. “Not only do these tracks take steps to minimize on-track injuries, they also go the extra mile to protect bettors by meeting or exceeding minimum wagering integrity standards. Anyone intending to watch or wager on either the Travers or the Pacific Classic can do so knowing that the best interests of horses, jockeys and handicappers are considered every step of the way.”

Saratoga Safety

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

In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included the reporting of injuries and fatalities and the use of an Injury Review Committee consisting of racetrack management, horsemen, stewards, the official track veterinarian and independent veterinarians.

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Saratoga included equine ambulance staffing, equipment and protocols; racing surface maintenance protocols; catastrophic injury planning and procedures; and sufficient security and support personnel for paddock safety.

In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included exogenous anabolic steroids regulation and Shockwave therapy regulation and protocols.

Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included rider medical care and ambulance support (especially the Jockey Advocate program) and Jockey Health Information System participation.

“We are pleased that Saratoga Race Course has earned this important reaccreditation from the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance,” said Glen Kozak, Vice President of Facilities & Racing Surfaces for The New York Racing Association, Inc.  “No detail is too small when it comes to the safety of our human and equine athletes or the integrity of our racing product.”

Del Mar Diligence

As at Saratoga, the latest Alliance inspection of Del Mar revealed best practices implemented in all of the most essential areas.

In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included the reporting of injuries and fatalities; pre-race and post-race veterinary examination protocols of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) regulatory and track veterinarians; Veterinarians’ List protocols of the CHRB; and the California Post Mortem Program.

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Del Mar included riding crop regulation and enforcement; equine ambulance staffing, placement and equipment; substance abuse and addiction regulation and support; safety training and continuing education; catastrophic injury planning and procedures; sufficient security and support personnel for paddock safety; and veterinary care coverage by practicing vets.

In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included alkalinizing agent regulation and TCO2 testing procedures; exogenous anabolic steroids regulation; Shockwave therapy regulation and protocols; the CHRB out of competition testing program; frozen sample testing; medication and testing education; and accreditation of the University of California, Davis Testing Lab.

Del Mar also was recognized for best practices in areas focused on declaration of horse (scratch) protocols; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; and medical care for injured riders.

NTRA President & CEO Alex Waldrop will present a flag recognizing Del Mar’s accreditation to track president Joe Harper in a winner’s circle ceremony following today’s second race. The flag will be raised above the Del Mar paddock, where it will fly every live racing day.

The Re-Accreditation Process

The re-accreditation of a racetrack is the culmination of a lengthy process that begins with the track’s completion of a 48-page written application and continues through several meetings with Alliance officials. An on-site review includes 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 are also conducted with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, stewards and fans.

The Saratoga inspection team was comprised of Jim Gates, Dr. Ron Jensen, Mike Kilpack and Ziegler. The Del Mar inspection team included Jensen, Kilpack, Ziegler and Richard Lewis.

Saratoga and Del Mar are among 24 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance. Others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Arlington Park, Belmont Park, Betfair Hollywood Park, Calder Casino and Race Course, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, 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, 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

About the Safety and Integrity Alliance

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

About the NTRA

The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of more than 80 horse racing interests consisting of leading Thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers, horseplayers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity of horse racing and improving economic conditions for industry participants. The NTRA has offices in Lexington, Ky., and New York City. NTRA press releases appear on, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (