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NTRA Safety And Integrity Alliance Releases Best Practices For Spectator-Free Racing

May 7, 2020

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Safety and Integrity Alliance today released a document outlining best practices for North American racetracks determined to prioritize the health and safety of all participants and employees, when conducting live racing in a spectator-free environment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The comprehensive document will assist racetracks that wish to resume live racing by establishing the safest public health environment possible, while also enabling gainful employment and economic activity at a time of uncertainty for so many. These best practices are based upon the most current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), input from racetracks across the U.S. that are already conducting live racing and/or training, and feedback from a newly established Public Health Advisory Council consisting of experts in public health, epidemiology and horseracing who have agreed to contribute their expertise to racetrack re-opening efforts.

In addition to public health protocols established by the CDC, the document includes detailed racetrack-specific operational guidelines. These include the establishment of a COVID-19 Safety Team to manage the myriad issues and situations that may arise when conducting live racing, cleaning and sanitation protocols, frontside operations involving essential employees only, racing and stable area operations that facilitate maximum physical distancing, health and safety requirements specific to jockeys, as well as other public health and safety recommendations.

Initial members of the Public Health Advisory Council include:
· Dr. Rick Greenberg, Infectious Disease Specialist, University of Kentucky
· Dr. Hiram Polk, Former Public Health Commissioner, Kentucky Dept. for Public Health
· Dr. Kelly Ryan, Family and Sports Medicine Specialist, MedStar Health
· Dr. Barry Schumer, Track Physician, Keeneland

“The current economic situation facing many in the horse racing industry make it critical that we work with relevant local authorities to help tracks across the country return to racing as soon as is safely possible,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “To this end, the NTRA has engaged a variety of stakeholders and consulted with multiple public health experts to produce comprehensive guidelines that will serve as a blueprint for tracks seeking to operate safely and responsibly in the current public health environment. We urge racetracks to tailor these protocols to fit their unique conditions by working closely with their state and local health department officials, as so much about the safest response to this pandemic is local in nature.”

Version 1.0 of the full document outlining all of the best practices can be found here: https://mk0ntrauj6jy9vera.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/NTRA_Covid_19_Plan_5.6.20-V6-FINAL.pdf

Updates to these best practices will be made on an ongoing basis as necessary.

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ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOAN APPLICATION PROCESS RESUMES FOR BREEDING FARMS

ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOAN APPLICATION PROCESS RESUMES FOR BREEDING FARMS
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has reopened the application process for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)-COVID-19 related assistance program after a short delay. Farms with fewer than 500 employees whose primary activity is breeding horses may now apply for these loans offered to businesses that have suffered economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is welcome news and a terrific opportunity for horse farms that are currently facing a number of daunting challenges,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “The NTRA encourages quick action by those interested, as the loans are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Click here to access the EIDL application.
The NTRA lobbied the SBA for several weeks after farms were excluded from earlier federal emergency aid packages. On April 24, President Trump signed into law another package providing relief to small businesses, including farms and ranches.
NTRA partner Dean Dorton, one of the nation’s leading experts on equine tax matters, posted an update to the COVID-19 microsite on NTRA.com that outlines the new provisions that will positively impact horse breeding farms. That PowerPoint can be found here.
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Homeland Security to Issue 35,000 Additional H-2B Visas

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 5, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier today communicated to Congressional offices its intent to release 35,000 additional H-2B visas for the summer season of Fiscal Year 2020. This nonimmigrant visa program is used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, racehorse trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

While DHS has not yet released a final rule outlining specific details, the agency has provided the following:

  •  Federal regulators will release the supplementals in two phases. The first batch of 20,000 will be available for employers requiring start dates  beginning April 1, and 15,000 to those having start dates beginning May 15.
  •  DHS will “generally limit” issuance of supplemental H-2B visas to returning workers “who are known to follow immigration law in good faith.”
  •  And in a first-time effort to align visa policy with the Administration’s border security goals, DHS will award 10,000 supplemental visas to citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, countries DHS has designated as “key Central American partners” on border security policy.

“We are pleased that the Administration and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf decided to allocate an additional 35,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2020,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “Hopefully, this will provide relief to horse trainers who continue to struggle to hire foreign workers for backstretch positions that U.S. citizens are not filling. While this number of supplemental visas is 5,000 greater than in Fiscal Year 2019, it is likely to fall short of demand.”

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Three-Year Racehorse Depreciation Extension Passed by Both Houses of Congress

LEXINGTON, Ky. (December 19, 2019) – A key provision that extends three-year tax depreciation for all racehorses through 2020 passed the Senate by a vote of 71-23 earlier today. The racehorse provision was passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday by a vote of 297-120 as part of a larger tax package.
“We appreciate the Senate’s work to include this important provision,” said NTRA President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Waldrop. “We especially applaud the efforts of Leader McConnell, who does so much to support Kentucky’s signature industry.”

 

Uniform three-year racehorse depreciation was among numerous tax provisions across many industries that either expired at the beginning of 2018 or this year, or were set to expire as of Jan. 1, 2020. The bill reinstates the 3-year schedule for all racehorses retroactive to 2018 and through 2020.
The provision allows taxpayers to depreciate, on a three-year schedule, racehorses 24 months of age and younger when purchased and placed into service, as opposed to a seven-year schedule.

 

Three-year racehorse depreciation was most recently available to the industry in 2017 but Congress did not renew it for 2018 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in December 2017. The TCJA did include 100% bonus depreciation and a $1 million Sec. 179 expense allowance for qualified depreciable property, two important investment incentives that lessened the need for three-year depreciation in many cases. However, three-year depreciation continues to be a beneficial option for many racehorse owners, especially racing partnerships with multiple passive owners, as it better aligns deductions with corresponding income opportunities on an annual basis.

 

Maintaining the three-year recovery period for racehorse purchases has been a top legislative priority for the NTRA federal legislative team since the provision’s initial enactment as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.

 

About the NTRA
The NTRA, based in Lexington, Ky., is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the Eclipse Awards; the National Horseplayers Championship; NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program; and Horse PAC®, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).
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INDUSTRY GROUPS ISSUE CALL FOR BISPHOSPHONATE RESEARCH PROPOSALS

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 13, 2019) – Three organizations dedicated to the improvement of horse health today announced a call for research proposals to investigate bisphosphonate administration in racehorses and in young racing prospects intended for sale at public auction.

The initiative by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and the American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation seeks to understand how bisphosphonates affect the long-term health and soundness of equine athletes. No research exists regarding the medication’s influence on horses under four years of age.

“The expeditious development, funding and execution of targeted tactical research will be critical to our industry’s efforts to effectively regulate the use of bisphosphonates and prevent their abuse,” said RMTC Chair Alex Waldrop.

The areas of requested research are:

  • Improving existing detection methodologies, including the potential use of alternative matrices such as hair and biomarkers in addition to the traditional testing matrices of urine and blood.
  • Understanding the effects of bisphosphonate administration on bone healing and remodeling.
  • Assessing the analgesic properties of bisphosphonates in the horse.

The complete Request for Proposals can be read here. The deadline for submission is Oct. 1, 2019.

For more information about submitting a proposal for consideration, please contact Johnny Mac Smith, DVM, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, at (859) 224-2850.

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NTRA to Support Legislation to Ban Horse Slaughter in U.S.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 12, 2019) – The National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced today that it will support the passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 961) that would prevent the horse slaughter industry from reestablishing operations in the United States and prohibit the export of American horses abroad for slaughter. The action was taken at the regularly scheduled meeting of the NTRA Board of Directors held in New York on June 6.

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is something the NTRA has opposed for many years,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “In the last decade alone, thousands of retired U.S. racehorses have been adopted and transitioned to second careers. The development and growth of quality racehorse aftercare programs continue to be a high priority for the industry.”

About the NTRA

The NTRA, based in Lexington, Ky., is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the Eclipse Awards; the National Horseplayers Championship; NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program; and Horse PAC®, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).

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$100,000 grant from NTRA Charities to establish new UK Equine Surfaces and Safety Laboratory

By Holly Wiemers

LEXINGTON, Ky., (April 17, 2019) – A gift of $100,000 announced today by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Charities will enable the University of Kentucky to further support equine surfaces and safety research under the direction of Mick Peterson, director of UK Ag Equine Programs.

Funds will be used to renovate existing space within the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment to create the NTRA Charities Equine Surfaces and Safety Laboratory. The investment will allow UK to make a meaningful impact on the sport of horse racing through surface and safety research conducted by Peterson, a nationally known expert in surface safety and faculty member in the UK Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

“NTRA Charities is excited to support UK’s new Equine Surfaces and Safety Research Laboratory, which through its important work will absolutely lead to a safer racing environment for our human and equine athletes,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “This presents a unique opportunity to achieve significant advancements in the science of creating and maintaining safer racetrack surfaces. This lab will also help us train the next generation of track maintenance personnel to analyze the wealth of data that will soon be available to keep racing surfaces as safe as possible.”

In 2016, UK acted upon the recognized need to expand its research capabilities in the area of safety and recruited Peterson as a faculty member and director of UK Ag Equine Programs. Peterson joined the team, relocating the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL) to Kentucky, and he continues to improve the safety of horse and rider in horse racing and sport horse endeavors.

“NTRA has reviewed variations on this proposal for nearly two years and we are very pleased to see it go forward. The job does not end here. We anticipate continued calls on the industry to fund specific surfaces research projects undertaken in this new laboratory,” said Steve Koch, executive director, NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

“The UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is committed to our signature equine industry in all ways. In particular, we are dedicated to all aspects of safety in our sport,” said Dean Nancy Cox. “This gift allows us to do important research to assist Thoroughbred racing and to create a pipeline of experts to serve racetrack safety.”

Under the direction of Peterson, RSTL has been particularly effective at reinforcing the welfare and safety commitment through its central testing laboratory for dirt, turf and synthetic racing surface materials. To date, testing has included more than 70 different racing and training tracks around the world. Equipment development from the lab includes riding crop design assessment, testing maintenance equipment and performance tests of starting gate and rail padding. The RSTL materials laboratory inspired efforts by the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) that have now expanded activities to arena surfaces testing, including large scale sample analysis that is available only in Sweden.

“This laboratory will allow us to do racetrack surfaces testing on a larger scale to permit us to replicate surface properties using maintenance equipment on the surfaces, which have been observed on racetracks but are not well understood. Understanding racetrack maintenance is key to providing a consistent racing surface regardless of the weather,” Peterson said.

The laboratory will work to solve today’s problems associated with surface and safety research. Projects which are currently funded but have previously been space constrained include:

  • The development of real-time moisture sensors for racing surfaces
  • Shoeing effects on swing phase joint loading
  • Real-time sensing of gait parameters
  • Subsurface design of racetracks
  • The effect of harrowing on the formation of the racetrack hardpan
  • New tools for the measurement of cushion depth on dirt racetracks and moisture and penetration resistance on turf tracks

The laboratory has the potential to offer substantial new areas for industry development, including:

  • The effect of a harrowed racing surface on optimal helmet design
  • The potential for new horseshoe designs to reduce loading rate for arteriosclerosis risk reduction
  • The development of new sensors for fan engagement and handicapping data using ‘internet of things’ technologies

Additionally, the expanded laboratory would provide space for undergraduate and graduate students to learn from and participate in innovative research and for important entities within the industry, such as track superintendents, to advance their knowledge and skills in a hands‐on setting.

Renovation is expected to begin by summer with space beginning to be used for research within a few months.

Writer: Holly Wiemers, 859-257-2226

UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.

About NTRA Charities

Formed in 1999, NTRA Charities is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) public charity whose mission is to promote and support charities in or related to the Thoroughbred industry. Contributions to NTRA Charities are tax deductible.

About the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance

The NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance establishes and implements standards promoting safety and integrity in horseracing. Corporate partners of the Alliance include Insurance Office of America and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Information on the Alliance, including the Alliance Code of Standards, can be found at NTRAalliance.com.

About the NTRA

The NTRA, based in Lexington, Ky., is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the Eclipse Awards; the National Horseplayers Championship; NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program; and Horse PAC®, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).

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Dept. of Homeland Security Announces Plans to Allocate 30,000 Additional H-2B Visas in Current Fiscal Year

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this week communicated to Congressional offices that it would allocate 30,000 additional H-2B visas for the current fiscal year that concludes on September 30, 2019. This nonimmigrant visa program is used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, racehorse trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

“We applaud Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen for her decision to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “This will provide relief to horse trainers desperate to hire foreign workers for backstretch positions that U.S. citizens are not filling. While the number is probably not sufficient to meet the demand, it is decidedly better than the 15,000 additional H-2B visas issued in the last two fiscal years.”

Below is the complete statement from DHS:

________________________________________________________________________________

The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program allows U.S. employers who meet specific statutory and regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.  There is a statutory cap on the total number of foreign nationals who may be issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status during a fiscal year. Under section 214(g)(1)(B) and 214(g)(10) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (INA), Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with a maximum of 33,000 available during the first half of any given fiscal year and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year.

Section 105 of Div. H of Public Law 116-6, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, was signed into law by the President on February 15, 2019. This fiscal year, for the third year in a row, Congress delegated to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to allocate visas above the 66,000 cap if the Secretary determines, after consultation with the Secretary of Labor, that the needs of American businesses could not be satisfied with U.S workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor.

After consultation with Secretary Acosta and carefully weighing several factors, including whether U.S. workers may be harmed, and impact statements from your constituents, Secretary Nielsen has decided to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019. Further, this supplemental visa allocation will be available only to applicants who have held H-2B status in at least one of the past three fiscal years (2016, 2017 and 2018). Details on eligibility and filing requirements will be available in the temporary final rule and on uscis.gov when the final temporary rule is posted for public inspection.

As Secretary Nielsen has stated, Congress is in the best position to know the “right” number of H-2B visas that American businesses should be allocated without harming American workers. DHS is committed to ensuring that our immigration system is implemented lawfully and that American workers are protected. We look forward to working with Congress so it can set an appropriate numerical limitation moving forward.

Thank you.

Office of Legislative Affairs

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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Bill Aims to End Export of Horses for Slaughter

Similar legislation was filed in 2017 but stalled in committee.

 

Bipartisan legislation filed in the United States House of Representatives Jan. 30 aims to halt the shipping of horses to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.

Representatives Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican, reintroduced Wednesday the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, which would prohibit horse-slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. and end the export of horses across the border for this purpose.

Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said the act is a permanent solution as opposed to the current de facto ban in place since 2006, which is accomplished by not funding regulatory appropriations to allow such plants to operate. Irby noted the bill includes 219 co-sponsors in the 115th Congress, more than half the House.

Similar legislation, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2017, stalled in committee despite having more than 200 co-sponsors.

“Horses have a special place in our nation’s history, and these majestic creatures were not raised as food for humans,” Schakowsky said. “The SAFE Act would prohibit any horse slaughter plant from opening and also end the sale or transport of horses and horse parts in the U.S. and abroad for the purpose of human consumption. I am proud to reintroduce this bill and work with Congressman Buchanan to put an end to this practice.”

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” Buchanan said. “I will continue to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for slaughter.”

National Thoroughbred Racing Association president and CEO Alex Waldrop said Wednesday he has not read through the entire bill yet, but one potential concern would be that the legislation could hinder transport of horses to Mexico or Canada for legitimate reasons, like racing or breeding.

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, intend to introduce a similar bill in the Senate soon.

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Waldrop: Online Betting On Horse Racing Still Legal Despite Justice Department Reversal On Wire Act

by  

Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association

Legal online wagering on horse racing will not be directly affected by a new U.S. government Department of Justice opinion on the Wire Act but could have an indirect impact on the willingness of banks and credit card companies to allow horseplayers to fund their advance deposit wagering accounts.

The opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, first reported by OnlinePokerReport.com, reversed a 2011 position taken during the Obama administration stating the Wire Act – a 1961 law prohibiting transmission of betting or betting information across state lines – only applied to sports betting. The reversal by the Trump administration may create an atmosphere of uncertainty among businesses operating online casinos, interstate lotteries and daily fantasy sports contests, along with banks and credit card companies.

The Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, amended in 2000 to include telephone and other electronic forms of wagering in states where that type of betting is legal, provides an explicit exemption for horse racing to conduct interstate wagering.

Despite that exemption, many banks and credit card companies were slow to permit the use of credit cards to fund advance deposit wagering accounts. Breakthroughs were made in recent years, however, and Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, wants to make sure this new Justice Department opinion does not reverse the trend.

“Still reviewing this long and complicated opinion but it appears to return us to 2011 when casinos and lotteries were fearful of operating online but the horse industry online presence through ADWs was already well established,” Waldrop told the Paulick Report via email. “So online wagering on horse racing that is conducted in compliance with the IHA is still legal.  We will be working with allies on the (Capitol) Hill to assure banks and credit card processors that it is still legal to allow their credit cards to be used to fund ADW wagering accounts. We also expect the next version of the Schumer/Hatch sports betting bill to have extensive language sorting out the application of the Wire Act to all sorts of online betting transactions.”

The order by the Justice Department is dated Nov. 2, days before the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The move was applauded by the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, a group widely believed to be funded by Sands casino operator and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, an opponent of online gaming.

Read more at OnlinePokerReport.com

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