Numerous Best Practices Identified at Track and in Ontario

NEW YORK CITY (Wednesday, April 9, 2014) – The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today announced that Woodbine Racetrack has earned re-accreditation for its Thoroughbred operations from the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. Located in Toronto, Ontario, the track opens a 133-day meet Saturday and continues live racing into December. The season’s highlights include the $1 million Queen’s Plate – first jewel in Canada’s Triple Crown of Racing – on July 6 and the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile – won each of the past two years by eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan – on Sept. 14.

Woodbine’s re-accreditation followed a complete review of all racing operations at the facility. Woodbine received its initial Alliance accreditation in 2010, soon after the Alliance’s formation. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.

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

“In its review, Woodbine exceeded established benchmarks in the vast majority of areas,” said Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. “The highest ‘Best Practice’ grading was awarded in 27 areas, which places Woodbine among the leading North American racetracks in commitment to safety and integrity.”

In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included the reporting of injuries and fatalities, pre- and post-race veterinary examinations, and an active Injury Review Committee to monitor all on-track injuries.

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Woodbine included regulation and enforcement for riding crops, helmets and safety vests; use of padded starting gates; substance abuse and addiction treatment; appropriate funding of industry safety research; data collection protocols to assist in proper racing surface maintenance; safety training and continuing education for track employees that work with horses; catastrophic injury planning and procedures; planning for infectious disease management; fire safety planning and procedures; saddling paddock and walking ring safety protocols; on-call veterinary treatment available during all racing and training hours; appropriate oversight of the Official Veterinarian; and proper dissemination of all house rules.

In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included exogenous anabolic steroids regulation; out-of-competition testing for blood doping agents at on-track and off-track locations; and appropriate communication of medication and testing standards.

Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included high standards for jockey licensing.

Woodbine also was commended for best practices in protocols relating to security across several areas, including: hiring, pre-employment drug testing, training, staffing, communications, surveillance, access to restricted areas, shipping procedures and record keeping, test barn protocol, and licensing. Regarding wagering security, best practices were recognized for wagering incident prevention, wagering incident investigation and due diligence for access to wagering pools.

“Woodbine looks forward to the bi-annual re-accreditation process where we confirm our commitment to the highest standards of safety and integrity,” said Steve Koch, Woodbine’s Vice-President of Racing. “This most important program of the NTRA has become an essential element in our management decisions throughout the racing year. Our team prides themselves on achieving ‘Best Practice’ ratings in numerous areas and we always look forward to applying best practices gleaned from other accredited tracks—perhaps the program’s most substantial contribution to the industry. Finally, we thank our customers that recognize value in the NTRA Accreditation and support our commitment to these high standards.”

The re-accreditation of Woodbine was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track’s completion of a 48-page written application and continued as Woodbine 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 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.

Woodbine is one of 22 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance. Others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont 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 and Turfway Park.

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

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 (