Posted: Sept. 5, 2019
Andy Belfiore, who has served as executive director for the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association for the past four years, will join the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association as the Project Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities, the THA announced Sept. 5.
In this capacity, Belfiore will work with the plan’s architects, New York State Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott Palmer and THA Chairman Alan Foreman, to coordinate and implement all aspects of the plan, including coordination among all of the industry stakeholders and regulators in the region, collecting the information necessary for scientific and evidence-based decision-making, and communicating progress and implementation to the Thoroughbred industry, legislators and the public.
Palmer expressed his strong support for Belfiore’s appointment as the Project Manager.
“Over the past six years, implementation of the recommendations of the (New York) Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and development of a Racing Risk Management Program in New York, has proved that collaborative work by racing’s stakeholders can reduce equine fatalities and thereby enhance the welfare of the horse,” Palmer said. “The Mid Atlantic Strategic Plan is an effort to ensure development and implementation of safety protocols throughout the region that comprises the largest daily concentration of racing and handle in the United States.
“Andy Belfiore is an outstanding choice to oversee this effort. Her background, training and expertise will help to ensure adoption of best safety practices throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and the United States. I look forward to working with her.”
The Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities was the product of a collaboration of the region’s racetrack operators, horsemen’s organizations, breeders’ organizations, racing commissions and regulatory and racetrack veterinarians. Many phases of the plan stem from the 2012 New York Task Force Report on Race Horse Health and Safety and are already in practice.
Since regional implementation of the New York Task Force recommendations, and others since that time, the incidence of equine racing fatalities in the Mid-Atlantic region has declined 29% based on Equine Injury Database statistics. In New York alone, the incidence of equine racing fatalities in 2018 was 1.29 per 1,000 starts, the lowest fatality rate in the state in decades and well below the national average of 1.68 per 1,000 starts.
The plan incorporates five key goals, including the establishment of regional safety best practices, improved methods to identify horses at increased risk of injury, implementation of protective factors to reduce the risk of injury, information-sharing and communication, and improvement of the general health and welfare of the horse. A copy of the plan is available here.
“We have empirical evidence to show that our strategies in the Mid-Atlantic are working and that we are, and continue to be, the industry leader on safety, welfare and integrity,” Foreman said. “In what has become a very difficult racing environment, the regional implementation of the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan is the most important thing we can do for our industry and our horses.”
A native of Massachusetts, Belfiore started her career in racing on the backstretch at Belmont Park, working as a hotwalker, groom, exercise rider and assistant trainer. After 10 years with the horses, she moved to the frontside at the track, and spent five years in the communications and marketing departments at the New York Racing Association.
Belfiore left NYRA in 1993 to take the post as editor-in-chief at the Thoroughbred Daily News, a position she held for 18 years. She was named Director of Communications for NYTHA in December 2011, and took over as Executive Director in 2015. Belfiore also serves as Executive Director of the TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program Inc., and is co-Chair of the Board of the Backstretch Employee Service Team.
“I am excited to be a part of this incredibly important initiative,” Belfiore said. “Most of us got into racing because we love the horses, first and foremost, you see it every day in the passion and dedication of our people on the backstretch and frontside. The plan will raise the bar ever higher on our commitment to our horses.”
The Mid-Atlantic stakeholders and regulators will meet at Delaware Park Oct. 2 to review and update the progress of current strategies and discuss next steps.
The Mid-Atlantic stakeholders and regulators who have committed to the Strategic Plan include NYRA; NYTHA; New York State Gaming Commission; New York Thoroughbred Breeders Association; Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack; Monmouth Park; NJTHA; New Jersey Racing Commission; Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey; Penn National Gaming Inc.; Parx Racing; PTHA; Pennsylvania HBPA; Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission; Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association; Delaware Park; DTHA; Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission; Maryland Jockey Club; Maryland State Fair at Timonium; MTHA; Maryland Racing Commission; Maryland Horse Breeders Association; West Virginia Racing Commission; Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort; Mountaineer HBPA; Charles Town HBPA; Colonial Downs; and the Virginia Racing Commission.