A 23rd horse died at Santa Anita Park only three days after racing resumed; it is the 23rd horse fatality in the past three months.
The string of deaths at Santa Anita isn’t the first spike in fatalities at a U.S. racetrack — these tragic events have happened before at other tracks and they will continue to occur without significant reform to the horse racing industry. The issue isn’t about a single track; horse fatalities are a nationwide problem that needs to be addressed on an industrywide basis.
There has been tremendous focus on the track surface, but the core of the problem lies in a fundamentally flawed system that falls far short of international horse racing standards — standards that better protect horses and result in far fewer injuries and deaths.
Chief among the principles that make up the standards of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) are those guiding the development of an effective anti-doping program and the regulation of the use of performance-enhancing drugs and drugs that can mask injuries, both of which can result in injuries and deaths. Under IFHA policies, commonly used therapeutic medications capable of masking pain and other symptoms of discomfort must be withdrawn days or even weeks prior to the race as compared to hours before the race in the U.S. IFHA policies also encourage rest to recover from injuries as opposed to policies here that facilitate treatment so training can continue, imperiling both horse and rider.
It’s time we joined the rest of the world in putting in place the best measures to protect the health and safety of our equine athletes and that can be done only with comprehensive reform. Reform that includes creation of an independent central rule-making authority, full transparency into all medical treatments and procedures, comprehensive drug reform, and strict anti-doping testing both in an out of competition.
On March 28, 2019, The Jockey Club published a major white paper — Vision 2025, To Prosper, Horse Racing Needs Comprehensive Reform — outlining the need for reforms and specific recommendations, including passage of H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019.
The Jockey Club, founded in 1894 and dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, is the breed registry for North American Thoroughbreds. In fulfillment of its mission, The Jockey Club, directly or through subsidiaries, provides support and leadership on a wide range of important industry initiatives, and it serves the information and technology needs of owners, breeders, media, fans and farms. It is the sole funding source for America’s Best Racing, the broad-based fan development initiative for Thoroughbred racing. You can follow America’s Best Racing at americasbestracing.net. Additional information is available at jockeyclub.com.