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National HBPA Opposes Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020

Statement from the National HBPA Board of Directors

On September 9, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 (HISA) with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The bill takes regulatory authority from state racing commissions and creates a new regulatory body responsible to the Federal Trade Commission. The new federal authority would establish and enforce a national racing medication and track safety program for the horse racing industry. Senator McConnell announced his legislation was a compromise within the industry, but there can be no compromise without consulting the views of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), which represents close to 30,000 race horse owners and trainers.

The National HBPA has reviewed the proposed legislation and affirmatively states at this time we oppose the HISA.

  • Banning Lasix before studying it “is putting the cart before the horse,” as Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR), a veterinarian, stated during the September 9 markup of the companion legislation in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. The legislation works to phase out an important, protective medication, commonly known as Lasix, over the next three years. Lasix is the only known medication to treat a condition called Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH), or bleeding in the lungs. EIPH threatens the health and wellbeing of many racehorses and until an alternative treatment is developed, the National HBPA believes that Lasix should be utilized on race day. Science and national veterinary leadership continue to support the administration of Lasix on race-day.
  • The new authority regulating horseracing nationwide will be governed by a board with a majority of members having no experience in the horseracing industry. And the board will be handpicked by the same elite interest groups pushing this legislation.
  • The legislation will be paid for on the backs of our membership. Unlike other legislation, Congress has not authorized any federal dollars to be spent on the proposed authority. The new authority will end up levying millions of dollars in fees on horsemen to pay for the new regulatory scheme. Given the economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, these new fees will likely put many small business owners and operators out of business.

The National HBPA and its affiliates remain strongly committed to the welfare of our human and equine athletes and will remain persistent in its efforts to achieve industry reforms that are fair and beneficial for all.

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National HBPA Releases Guidelines Regarding Racing Industry’s Ability to Safely Operate During COVID-19 Crisis

The National HBPA — using effective policies in place at Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and in consultation with other authorities — has assembled a list of best practices to encourage the industry to get back up and running.  The NHBPA and other entities are urging tracks and racing commissions to begin spectator-less racing that is both safe and compliant with CDC guidelines and social-distancing directives. Eric Hamelback, chief executive officer of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, said the purpose of developing the template for conducting racing without fans is to have the information in a working document as a reference tool for tracks, locales and regulatory bodies.

“We’re not trying to tell government, health officials and racing commissions what to do,” Hamelback said. “Our intent is to provide insight into protocols that are working successfully at two of the largest race meets in America, Gulfstream and Oaklawn Park, and elsewhere. We hope it provides a path forward and others will continue to develop best practices. Horse racing is different from other industries in that our workers must continue to feed, exercise, bathe and groom our horses. That is going on across the country at many more tracks than are currently racing. It’s notable that the actual racing component involves far fewer people to stage than morning training.

“The COVID-19 health and economic crisis has devastated industries. Horseracing and its supporting agribusinesses are no different; and while income has ceased, expenses have remained constant. However, unlike many businesses and industries,  horse racing has a solution. Spectator-free racing poses a minimal safety risk, is cost-effective, and logistically practical while still adhering to current national and state safety protocols. Every racetrack has a surrounding community that will benefit if horse racing is allowed to be conducted under these highly controlled conditions.”

Below are the guidelines compiled by the National HBPA. Click here to download the guidelines as a PDF.

 

Racing Industry’s Ability to Safely Operate During COVID-19 Crisis

The National HBPA in conjunction with horsemen and racing officials has put together these guidelines using existing successful protocols of tracks successfully operating and racing spectator free during the COVID-19 crisis.  This document is intended as a resource for horsemen, race track operators or governing bodies and these recommendations do not replace clinical recommendations of health and veterinary authorities. These guidelines may evolve as they are implemented into practice and as we receive feedback. Finally, these guidelines were developed based on best practice protocols and procedures currently being utilized.  Local factors should be taken into account if utilized with full understanding that these guidelines are informational and do not represent any assurance that the suggested action is all that is necessary or the optimum approach for a particular track.  While the NHBPA wants to promote safe, healthy, live racing, it recognizes the rapidly changing health environment and must disclaim any liability for use of these guidelines.

Recommended Coronavirus Policies for Maintaining Spectator Free Racing:

  • Establish a Staff Directory of all contacts for key personnel which can be accessible with cell phone numbers and emails. Also include the current management chain of command with names of key personnel;
  • Establish a list of all on-track and nearby off-track medical facilities;
  • Definitions of Essential personnel – employees who are considered responsible for basic minimum services and who are required to work when state services are temporarily reduced due to hazardous conditions. Non-essential personnel – employees who are not responsible for basic minimum services when state services are temporarily reduced due to hazardous conditions.
  • Essential personnel may include racing officials as designated by the state, safety staff (ambulance drivers, track maintenance crew,) outriders, pony crew, starting-gate operators and specialized janitorial staff to sanitize the facility. Essential personnel involved with the care, training and racing of horses includes grooms, hotwalkers, exercise riders, trainers and their assistants, jockeys, blacksmiths, veterinarians, horse dentists, equine message therapists. Essential personnel licensed by the commission to ensure horse racing is held in compliance with state statutes and regulations include but is not limited to stewards, placing judges, official chart-caller, photo-finish operator, clocker and clerk of scales.
  • To limit exposure and prevent the spread of germs and disease, NO VISITORS/GUESTS will be allowed to access the Backside, Racetrack, Track Apron, Paddock or Jockeys Room. Non-essential personnel are prohibited on the grounds;
  • Only licensed and credentialed essential personnel will be granted access to the Backside, Racetrack, Track Apron, Paddock or Jockeys Room;
  • Non-essential personnel should be prohibited, including all public service employees (including but not limited to food service, wagering tellers, ushers, admission staff).
  • Develop a security team whose members oversee all access control procedures, monitoring and reporting requirements and ensure all suspected of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection are properly communicated and documented;
  • No wagering or food service in the grandstand;
  • The Press Box should be closed to everyone except licensed and credentialed essential personnel;
  • Stable cafeteria may remain open to serve essential personnel while following all State, Local and CDC guidelines and restrictions including patrons carrying out their food;
  • All public areas of the grandstand are to be closed including for morning workouts.

Stable Gate (entrance to barn area) and Backside Security:

  • Only essential licensed personnel are allowed in through the stable gate. This means no visitors or guests including those who are accompanied by essential personnel;
  • Establish a health check station(s) where temperatures, symptoms and names can be logged before being permitted access to stable area;
  • There must be multiple health check stations at every accessible access gate/entry for the stable area;
  • Before being allowed in the stable area all essential personnel must have their temperature taken and be found to be afebrile. Log template may be provided;
  • Establish a color-coded wrist band system with a different color representing each day of the week;
  • Colored band must be applied at the health check station and must be worn for the entirety of the day;
  • Access to any and all not wearing a wrist band with the corresponding day’s color should be denied;
  • Trainers or their responsible personnel are accountable for all their employees to ensure essential personnel have had their temperature monitored and approved and thus are wearing the correct corresponding colored band;
  • Racetrack management is accountable for all their employees to ensure essential personnel have had their temperature monitored and approved and thus are wearing the correct corresponding colored band;
  • Backside dormitory and living areas must be monitored routinely for compliance by security team members and assigned racing personnel;
  • Determine and designate quarantine rooms to be set aside where possible for the sole purpose of providing a safe area to be successfully quarantined, if required. Security team members will be needed to ensure these rooms are kept fully secured;
  • All incoming van drivers (providing they are afebrile) must wear a suitable covering (a mask, scarf or bandana) over their nose and mouth and wear gloves when entering to pick up or drop off horses. Drivers and attendants must have minimal contact with any stable personnel;
  • All Pony Personnel must wear a suitable covering (a mask, scarf or bandana) over their nose and mouth and wear gloves when in contact with jockeys while mounted;
  • Gate crew personnel must wear a suitable covering (a mask, scarf or bandana) over their nose and mouth and wear gloves while loading horses in the starting gate and will have no physical contact with any other personnel unless in the best interest of safety.

Suggested Cleaning and Hygiene Protocols
Cleaning protocols should include:

  • Focused cleaning/disinfection: increase frequency cleaning/disinfection of all high-risk surfaces (stable equipment, tack boxes, handles, elevator buttons, handrails, counter tops, etc.) and all high traffic areas;
  • Provide additional hand washing and/or hand sanitizing stations;
  • The working gate crew shall disinfect the starting gate every morning before training, during breaks, after training and between every race;
  • Establish designated personnel to disinfect the paddock and saddling area every morning before training, during breaks, after training and between every race;
  • Shipping company’s van drivers should disinfect vans and trailers between each and every trip;

Restricted Access Protocols:

  • The racetrack, the track apron and paddock access will be limited to Commissioned licensed trainers and essential personnel who have horses running that day;
  • No owners, media or fans will be allowed on the track in order to limit outside exposure;
  • No guests, with no exceptions;
  • No assembling of any personnel in any areas and all personnel should practice social distancing;
  • Walking ring must be closed to everyone other than licensed personnel who are required to accompany their horse to and from the saddling barn or racetrack;
  • Jockeys will get on their horses as soon as possible and proceed directly to the racetrack for the post parade and warm up;
  • The racetrack, the track apron and paddock must remain closed to the public, non-essential personnel, and anyone who has not followed security protocol entry;
  • A Security Access Log should be maintained by a member of the security team to register who accessed the apron on a specific day.

Access to the Jockeys’ Room and Jockeys’ Room Restricted Protocols:

  • The Jockeys’ Guild should be consulted for organizational established protocols;
  • Only essential personnel licensed by the state and jockeys scheduled to ride in races will be allowed access to the Jockey’s room;
  • All jockeys and essential personnel in the Jockeys’ Room (including Valets and Clerk of the Scales) will have their temperatures monitored daily. Anyone showing any signs of illness must be denied access to the premises;
  • Lockers and workstations will be spaced a minimum of the required six feet apart;
  • All jockeys will be required to wear riding gloves;
  • Jockeys must be prohibited from any physical contact between themselves and others;
  • Jockeys are required to leave the Jockeys’ Room immediately following their last ride;
  • All Sauna and extraneous facilities must be closed. Showers may remain open but will be sanitized frequently throughout the day;
  • Jockeys should be encouraged to limit travel and a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine is in effect for all jockeys and personnel who have traveled internationally;
  • Certain states have similar self-quarantine orders in effect for anyone traveling into the state from another state.
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National HBPA Convention: Finding Ways To Do Things Better

Finding ways for horse racing to do things better is the overarching theme of the National HBPA Convention March 12-16 at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, Fla.

That also is the mission of the new Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, a horse-racing think tank whose representatives form the March 13 keynote panel at the annual convention staged by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and its affiliates in the United States and Canada. Launched last May, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation already has issued a trio of white papers on horse racing and legal sports betting, when interference should result in a disqualification and rounding down to the penny in mutuel payoffs.

The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation’s stated goal is “to improve the thoroughbred racing industry for all stakeholders, especially its primary customers – gamblers and owners – through the exchange, curation and advocacy of sound, data-driven ideas, shared with and implemented by the sport’s existing entities.” TIF is funded by individuals and accepts no money from industry organizations.

Panelists are Glen Hill Farm president and think-tank founder Craig Bernick, along with TIF board members Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing and horse owner-breeder Corey Johnsen of Arizona Downs and Kentucky Downs. Moderating the panel will be Justin Nicholson, a TIF board member and co-founder of Equestricon.

“I continue to try to keep the keynote address about the positiveness and what’s working in the industry,” Hamelback said. “I certainly see this panel as that. This group and their board as a whole are very bright individuals who are all vested in the industry. They have a passion to make this industry as successful as possible, not just sit by and be status quo.

“We’re in a time where our industry is poised for growth if people will take heed of the changes that we should and could make…. These are people who want this industry not only to survive but to thrive.”

Other panels and presentations include:

  • “Putting the ‘We’ in Equine Welfare” kicks off the March 13 programming by exploring what animal welfare really means, who decides what is and isn’t good welfare and why the industry must get involved in the debate. The session will be presented by Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, the New York Racing Association’s chief examining veterinarian, an accredited steward, industry consultant and attorney.

“It makes you think about what some of these activists see and things we can do to make it better,” said Hamelback, who has seen Durenberger’s presentation. “It’s dependent on how we treat our equine athlete as to how our industry moves forward, as much as growing owners and handicappers.”

  • “Accessing Our Industry’s Stats Into The Future” will discuss owners asserting their rights to statistical data collected on their horses’ performances, including gaining input on how it is used. The panel comes as Equibase is testing GPS systems to collect race and workout data of horses.
  • Michele Fischer, president of the Darting Star consulting company whose expertise includes wagering systems around the world, will make a presentation about the future of fixed-odds betting at American racetracks, including the positive impact it has had in Australian racing.
  • John Marshall, senior vice president and general manager of Virginia’s revived Colonial Downs, is the guest speaker at the awards luncheon. Among those to be recognized is 2018 Claimer of the Year Persie, the Penn National-based winner of 10 of 17 starts in claiming and starter-allowance races for owner Bush Racing and trainer Lester Stickler.
  • Dr. Steve Vickner, an economist and associate professor in the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program in the College of Business and specialist in data analytics, will present factors affecting handle in thoroughbred and standardbred races based on extensive research at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack as part of the convention’s March 14 programming.

“That’s the kind of thing we need to know if we’re going to have pertinent industry discussions on how to change things, and what we’re doing already that is a win so we don’t have to focus on that part,” Hamelback said.

  • The public portion of the convention concludes the morning of March 15 with the annual Kent Stirling Memorial Scientific Panel, which will continue to delve into one of the most important topics facing horsemen: the dangers of environmental contamination and inadvertent transfer of impermissible substances to horses. This session focuses on naturally occurring substances in feed, forage and bedding and how horsemen can protect themselves.

“We have to be cognizant what’s in the barn,” Hamelback said.

The Tampa Bay Downs HBPA is the host affiliate, including sponsoring an afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs on March 15.

View the complete agenda, speakers and panelists here.

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Panel Discusses Sexual Harassment at Tracks

Panel said backstretch workers need to know where to turn.

Members of a panel discussing sexual harassment issues at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention March 16 in New Orleans said potential places for workers to turn include backstretch chaplains, horsemen’s groups, backstretch health workers, and stewards.

Loretta Brennan, executive director of the Arkansas HBPA, applauded the move by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to place forms in its office that allow workers to fill out a complaint about sexual harassment. Brennan acknowledged that not every worker may feel comfortable filling out such a form, but noted that it’s important to have options and make workers aware of those options so they don’t feel isolated.

Jennifer Johnson, vice president of Mountaineer HBPA who grew up on the backstretch, said workers need to have the ability to seek help and know where to turn.

“They do have to seek some help to make sure that behavior doesn’t continue,” Johnson said, noting that victims need to understand that they didn’t do anything wrong, and by speaking up they can stop this behavior. “They have to understand they have rights.”

The panel said sexual harassment can occur on the front side as well, and those workers should address the human resources department. They noted that where a worker can turn is not as well defined on the backstretch, and language barriers as well as the enclosed environment can potentially lead to feelings of isolation.

Brennan said that like every work environment, sexual harassment occurs on the backstretch. Some of those workers, who may not feel  they are in a position of power, have shared their stories with Brennan.

“It definitely happens. I have had young women come to me in need and seek advice. I always reach out to my chaplain. I advise them that they can seek legal avenues. If it’s serious enough, they can hire a lawyer, but that hasn’t happened,” Brennan said. “My chaplain goes and talks with them, and gets pretty stern with them. I don’t think it’s happened again once I’ve had that conversation.”

Panel moderator Lynne Schuller recalled a personal incident where a horseman client she was representing at a hearing before the stewards said something highly offensive to her.

“I was going into a stewards meeting on a horseman, and he said something to me so shocking that I won’t repeat it,” Schuller said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘You idiot, you’re going to say that to me right before a meeting. What would you say to an employee you hired mucking a stall?'”

Schuller said she informed the stewards of what was said, and they took some level of action against the horseman. She said it was never a problem again. But she said women working on the backstretch may not feel like they are in a position to say something. She said there have to be ways to communicate, and any victim has to feel comfortable in telling her story.

Richard Riedel, executive director of the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund, said horsemen and backstretch groups should start activities and events that are popular with women like yoga classes and self defense. He said as members become comfortable in that atmosphere, advocates can present on topics like sexual harassment and inform them of their options.

Dan Waits, executive director of Race Track Chaplaincy of America, said part of chaplaincy training now includes training on sexual harassment.

“While the horse racing environment is unique, this problem goes on in any environment. As employers and supervisors, we need to provide a safe environment. Some of this is not just about sexual advances, some is about control,” Waits said. “People want to work in a safe environment where they are respected. It’s that simple.”

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