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Jockey Club: Horse racing needs one national set of anti-doping, medication rules

In advance of the Kentucky Derby, several prominent racetracks announced the formation of a coalition to eliminate Lasix as a race-day medication for 2-year-old and stakes races. Additionally, Churchill Downs announced a set of safety protocols and procedures, including medication reform, limits on crop use, an increased investment into equine medical facilities, and an initial set of limited medication reforms, which are all laudable and will move safety forward.
The Jockey Club commends those associations on their commitment to the health and safety of racehorses, and the integrity of the sport on the threshold of another Triple Crown season. But for reform to be truly effective, it would have to be adopted across the 38 separate state and regional regulatory bodies that govern horse racing. This fragmented system means we don’t have national standards that are in line with international standards, which are designed to better protect horses. It means that initiatives, such as those announced last week, are faced with a long and tortuous path that may take years to implement.
Health problems and spikes in horse fatalities are the result of multiple factors in which there are many unknowns. The lack of transparency into treatment records and medical histories of Thoroughbreds are largely due to a fragmented regulatory system that does not emphasize transparency let alone uniformity. As a result, regulators cannot effectively manage the many issues involved in equine health and safety.
Relying upon a system of individual, state-based regulations and rules denies the industry dynamic and effective change. And placing another voluntary layer of oversight with quasi-regulatory powers on top of an already broken system will not yield the results we desire: better rules, strictly enforced and uniformly implemented on a national basis.


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