Breeders’ Cup ties Challenge races to adopting Safety Coalition reforms

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: March 4, 2020

The Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors March 3 adopted new equine safety standards and tied the hosting of its “Win and You’re In” Challenge races to implementation of 19 safety and integrity reforms advocated by the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, of which Breeders’ Cup is a member.

Beginning at the 2020 World Championships at Keeneland, Breeders’ Cup will adopt all six recommendations from a report written by Dr. Larry Bramlage that stemmed from a catastrophic injury in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic and are aimed at refining safety and veterinary evaluation protocols for future events.

The six recommendations from Bramlage are as follows:

  • Pre-identify horses before arrival at the event which have historic indications of concerns that require investigation. Horses on the list should receive particular attention and be observed by regulatory veterinarians at every opportunity.
  • Concentrate the responsibility for individual horse examinations so the same individuals can regularly track a horse’s day-to-day activities.
  • Improve the quality of the on-track observation opportunity by focusing on “the trot” and de-emphasizing observation of horses walking, galloping and breezing. An observation area should be designated for horses to trot at least 110 yards under veterinary supervision.
  • Create space in the barn area where regulatory veterinarians can observe horses on the “extra scrutiny” list jog in a circle in hand in both directions if necessary.
  • Make diagnostic imaging, such as radiographs, nuclear scans, ultrasounds, MRI and PET scans are an accepted part of the pre-race exams for selected horses.
  • Take advantage of all video footage available before race day to identify horses that may require extra scrutiny. A conscious effort should be made to identify and view any footage of a horse to get another assessment of its gait.

“The implementation of the increased safety measures outlined in the Bramlage report for our World Championships, along with the required adoption of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition safety and integrity reforms by racetrack partners hosting Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, are the latest steps the Breeders’ Cup has taken to strengthen its longstanding commitment to instituting the highest standards in the overall conduct of our racing programs,” Breeders’ Cup President and Chief Executive Officer Drew Fleming said in a release.

Breeders’ Cup notes adherence to 19 reforms issued by the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, but 20 are listed on its website. The Breeders’ Cup Challenge schedule for 2020 has not yet been released, but based on the 2019 schedule multiple tracks or jurisdictions would not currently qualify, particularly with the first item on the list.

Medical

  • Phase out the use of the race-day medication Lasix
  • Increase the withdrawal time for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to 48 hours pre-race
  • Prohibit concurrent usage of multiple NSAIDs
  • Increase the withdrawal time for corticosteroids to 14 days pre-race
  • Prohibit concurrent usage of multiple corticosteroids
  • Prohibit the use of bisphosphonates on horses in training or racing, with a penalty of 12 months on the vets’ list if detected
  • Regulate extracorporeal shockwave therapy

Operational

  • Adopt “voided claim” rules to help protect unsound horses from continuing to compete and injuring themselves
  • Mandate direct daily reporting by vets to regulatory officials
  • Perform random, out-of-competition testing on horses without limitation
  • Adopt a uniform riding-crop rule, limiting crop use and defining crop specifications
  • Mandate necropsies on all fatally injured or ill horses
  • Enforce minimum timed thoroughbred working requirements

Organizational

  • Create an electronic veterinary reporting system and centralized database
  • Collect racing surface data and merge information with existing databases
  • Standardize protocols for ensuring jockey health and wellness
  • Develop a proficiency system for exercise riders
  • Create a safety steward position in all jurisdictions
  • Establish cross-functional safety committees at all participating racetracks
  • Mandate increased licensing requirements for trainers