Numerous Best Practices Identified at Boston-Area Track

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today announced that Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Mass., has earned re-accreditation from the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. The re-accreditation followed a complete review of all racing operations at the facility. Suffolk Downs received its initial Alliance accreditation in 2011. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.

During the latest Alliance inspection of Suffolk Downs, best practices were identified in most of the primary areas of focus for the Alliance, including several that represented significant improvements from the initial inspection in 2011.

“Suffolk Downs has continued to make significant strides in its commitment to protecting horses and participants,” said Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. “With extensive cooperation from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the state’s new horse racing regulatory body, and its Director of Racing,Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, Suffolk Downs has developed into an exemplar of what we aspire to across the industry.”

Best Practices Cited

Safety and Integrity Alliance inspectors judge racetracks in six key areas: Injury Reporting and Prevention; Safety Equipment and a Safer Racing Environment; Medication and Testing; Health and Safety of Riders; Aftercare of Retired Racehorses; and Wagering Security.

In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included required post-mortem veterinary examinations for all on-track fatalities and the enforcement efforts involved with the Veterinarians’ List for horse unfit to compete, where all horses working to be removed from the list have blood testing conducted for all substances – with penalties for bad tests being the same as a post-race sample.

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Suffolk Downs included substance abuse treatment and addiction treatment, along with testing of licensees. The Eighth Pole, the on-site substance abuse program, especially stood out for its quality of treatment and services and sustained funding mechanism. Also, all licensees on horseback as well as all assistant starters wear approved safety helmets.

Additionally, Suffolk Downs and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission have written regulatory veterinary protocols and standard operating procedures geared toward maintaining the integrity in its racing product.  These include recording the coming and going of all veterinarians at the stable gate, the daily collection of veterinarian administration records, and written manuals provided to practicing veterinarians and trainers.

Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included full participation in the Jockey Injury Database.

The track also received commendation from the inspection team for its commitment to horse welfare, including one of the nation’s strictest anti-slaughter policies and a sustainable fundraising method for retired racehorse adoption. Track executives are directly involved in adopting retired Thoroughbreds that raced at Suffolk Downs and the horsemen commit $20,000 annually to aftercare.

Further, Suffolk Downs exceeded the minimum set of standards in the three areas related to wagering security: Wagering Incident Prevention Protocols, Wagering Incident Investigation Protocols and Wagering Pool Due Diligence.

“We are proud to receive this re-accreditation as it recognizes one of our primary objectives as a racetrack, which is to ensure the safety of the horses that race here, as well as the men and women who ride them and care for them,” said Chip Tuttle, Chief Operating Officer of Suffolk Downs. “We thank our employees and horsemen for their efforts in helping us attain this achievement and we commend the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for its ongoing commitment to a safe and fair racing environment.”

The re-accreditation of Suffolk Downs was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track’s completion of a 48-page written application and continued as Suffolk 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; Jim Gates, consultant and former general manager of Churchill Downs; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant and past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators (ORI); and Ziegler.

Suffolk Downs is one of 24 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance. Others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Arlington Park, Betfair Hollywood Park, Calder Casino and Race Course, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, 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, 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