Thoroughbred Safety Coalition formed, improvements promised

Posted at 3:33 PM, Nov 19, 2019

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Some of horse racing's biggest policy makers were at Keeneland today and they were promising change.

The policy makers told anyone willing to listen that this has been in the making for some time, and not simply a response to the 46 on-track equine deaths that took place in 2019 at Santa Anita Park in California and Lexington's Keeneland Racing.

The Thoroughbred Safety Coalition is going to make things safer for the athletes, and the horses who are also considered athletes, and transparency is going to be the key.

"The reforms are meaningful, and we're going to make sure the public knows what those reforms are, and how we're going about it," said Keeneland President Bill Thomason. "And we're going to be accountable."

Thomason was joined at his home track by representatives from the Breeder's Cup, the New York Racing Association, Churchill Downs and others to announce the formation of this coalition, which will implement new policies covering the medical, operational and organizational levels of the industry.

"It became apparent, I think earlier this year, that we need to be doing more, and that's why we're here," said new Breeders' Cup President Drew Fleming.

Fleming said the coalition’s members are a unified front, and will not hope, but expect compliance from industry officials across the country. Non-compliance with any piece of reform, those currently listed, and others that could be added, will be met with penalties.

“[We] are committed to doing everything we can to gather all relevant information that we can, for real-time sharing for anyone who counts on us to take care of these athletes,” Thomason said during Tuesday's 45-minute press briefing on the initiatives.

Thomason also said the use of synthetic surfaces at Keeneland, and other tracks, could eventually be in play as they might prove to be a safer surface for stampeding thoroughbreds.

“We’ve already initiated significant research at our track, and with our surfaces,” he said.

According to the TSC, initiatives being implemented on the medical side include:

  • Increasing the withdrawal time for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to 48 hours before a race.
  • Prohibiting usage of multiple NSAID’s concurrently.
  • Increasing withdrawal of corticosteroids to 14 days before a race.
  • Elimination of concurrent usage of those corticosteroids.
  • Ban the use of bisphonsphonates on all horses in training/racing. Failure to adhere could result in a penalty of one year.

“This is not about economics,” said Fleming, “it’s about safety.”

It would be hard to argue that economics aren’t a factor when the American Horse Council estimates the sport generates roughly four billion dollars for Kentucky’s economy on a yearly basis. But every single member of this coalition will tell you that one equine death on the track is too many. Now they’ve come together in hopes of helping to reduce the number of fatalities, by a large number.

“This is all about our horses,” Thomason said. Fleming took it one step further.

“We have to get this right,” Fleming said.