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Keeneland and Churchill Downs Reinforce Commitment to Safety with Racing and Training Reforms


Info from Marty Irby, Animal Wellness Action and Darren Rogers, Churchill Downs Communications

On February 27, 2020, Churchill Downs and Keeneland announced their commitment to new racing and training reform measures that includes a ban on the race-day use of Lasix in all two-year-old races that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission adopted late last year. 

Keeneland has long been a member of the Coalition for Horseracing Integrity that has led the charge to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R. 1754/S. 1820 with 243 cosponsors in the U.S. House, and 25 in the U.S. Senate.

Press Release
Keeneland and Churchill Downs today jointly announced major changes in racing and training policies to strengthen safety protocols at both race tracks. Reforms include mandatory veterinary inspections prior to workouts and race entry and enhanced reporting and transparency requirements for trainers and attending veterinarians with regard to the fitness of horses to work and race.

These reforms also apply to horses stabled at Keeneland’s The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington and the Churchill Downs Training Center in Louisville.

In a significant step to promote integrity in racing, Keeneland and Churchill Downs will ban the race-day use of Lasix in all 2-year-old races under the International Medication Protocol authority granted in 810 KAR 8:050 of the Kentucky Administrative Regulations beginning with Keeneland’s 2020 Spring Meet and following at Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 2020 Spring Meet. Kentucky’s Thoroughbred race tracks supported sweeping medication reforms, including the Lasix ban, adopted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) in late 2019.

Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason and Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said in a joint statement: “These meaningful reforms further advance our commitment to create the safest possible environment for racing and training. Race tracks, horsemen and the veterinary community share a responsibility for the welfare of our human and equine athletes and to promote the sport for generations of fans to come.”

Changes will become effective with the opening of the stable areas at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. Trainers and attending veterinarians must agree to the following conditions in order to participate in the racing programs at either track:

A trainer is not permitted to enter a horse in any race unless the horse has been found fit to race by the attending veterinarian during the three days immediately prior to entry, and

A trainer is not permitted to work a horse unless the horse has been found fit to work by the attending veterinarian during the five days immediately before the work.

Trainers and attending veterinarians are obligated to inform the equine medical director at the appropriate race track and the KHRC of any changes in a horse’s fitness after an examination has been conducted.

Additionally, all horses at Keeneland and Churchill Downs will be subject to veterinary inspections by the tracks’ respective equine medical directors and to veterinary monitoring.

Update March 17, 2020

From Marty Irby

Animal Wellness Action recently uncovered Churchill Downs’ major political spending to block movement of Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R. 1754/S. 1820, which has 275 cosponsors in the Congress, including Kentucky Republican Representatives Andy Barr and James Comer. The reports reveal Churchill Downs paid $30,000 to Harbinger Strategies for the period of January 1, 2019 – March 31, 2019, for lobbying services by Manny Rossman, a Senior Policy Advisor to former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS); Steve Stombres, a Chief of Staff for former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA); and three additional lobbyists at the firm.

Adding a second firm in the second quarter named Subject Matter with eleven total lobbyists also at $30,000, Churchill paid a total of $60,000 to the two firms for the period of April 1, 2019 – June 30, 2019, another $60,000 to the two firms for the period of July 1, 2019 – September 30, 2019, and $60,000 more to the same two firms for the period of October 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019.

[links to the lobbying disclosure forms:]
Baffert Endorses Horseracing Integrity Act

On March 13, 2020, Bob Baffert, American horseracing’s best-known figure, endorsed the Horseracing Integrity Act, a measure to ban race-day doping of horses in American racing. Baffert’s endorsement was released in an essay published in the Washington Post.

In his opinion piece, Baffert said: “Horse racing is experiencing the most profound crisis in the long history of the sport.” He referred to the arrest (on March 9, 2020) of 27 people on federal horse-doping charges in a “scheme to give racehorses performance-enhancing and other banned drugs that can mask preexisting injuries and directly lead to horse injuries and death.” Baffert said these federal indictments have convinced him “that horse racing needs immediate and drastic action to fix a broken system.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our equine and human athletes, and nothing impacts their health and safety more than the policies and procedures concerning drugs. These indictments show that the current system of 38 state racing jurisdictions, each with its own regulatory body, laws and regulations, is entirely inadequate.”

Baffert referred to the Horseracing Integrity Act: the “legislation would create the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority, a private, nonprofit body with the expertise to set national drug policies, procedures and penalties. For the first time, we would be racing under a uniform, nationwide set of drug rules.”

He concluded by inviting all of his colleagues to join him in asking Congress to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act, saying “It is time for the horse-racing industry to unite in support of a national anti-doping regulatory system.”

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