Parx earns NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance accreditation

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 31, 2019

A multi-year process has resulted in Parx Racing, located in southeastern Pennsylvania, receiving accreditation by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance.

The accreditation, updates on which were provided periodically to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, was strongly pushed by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents horsemen at Parx. The track is the 25th in the United States and Canada to earn accreditation.

Director of Racing David Osojnak; Tim McLaughlin, John Shirley and Lance Morell, who handle security; Gerard Weipert, the track superintendent); and Safety Steward Donnie Smith led the effort in key areas as jockey health, medication and testing standards, fire and safety planning, and Thoroughbred aftercare, which the alliance designated as “best practices” in its review process.

Parx Chief Operating Officer Joe Wilson said many of the measures had been in place before the review.

“A lot of the things that the alliance requires, we had already done,” Wilson said in a release. “And when I say that, it refers to a padded starting gate, proper equipment with regards to helmets and vests. We installed the rider protection rail and we installed an audio and visual alarm system on the track. And as far as aftercare for racehorses, the PTHA’s Turning For Home program, which was founded more than 10 years ago, has safely retired more than 2,400 Thoroughbreds. This program is funded by Parx horse owners, jockeys, the PTHA, the (Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association) and Parx management.

“So with all that, it was just a natural fit that we should take that further and be accredited by the NTRA. It just solidifies how important we take safety and integrity. It’s extremely important.”

Among the heightened initiatives that Parx is implementing are jockey concussion protocols: Any jockey believed to have potentially suffered a concussion will be sent to the hospital and must be seen and signed off by a doctor before being allowed to resume riding. Any jockey out as a result of a concussion will be placed on a “stop list” and not allowed on the backstretch until they are cleared.

Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic states have similar protocol.

Parx is a participant in the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau wagering security program and has adopted the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory’s Maintenance Quality System to execute annual surfaces inspection and best practices in surface-maintenance standards.

Alliance Executive Director Steve Koch said those programs, as well as full compliance by the PHRC with the National Uniform Medication Program, which has its roots in the Mid-Atlantic region, are “three of the most significant, obvious identifiers of a complete safety and integrity operation. On top of this we were very pleased with the thorough regulatory and official veterinary standards in force on a Parx race day.”

“Even if we were (graded) more than satisfactory in a category, we listened to if there were any other recommendations, and where we could, we implemented them,” Wilson said. “(Regarding) our detention barn, (the alliance) felt we could enhance the security of that, so we did.”

The on-site inspection at Parx was conducted by Koch; Mike Kilpack, a security and integrity consultant; Dan Fick, a racing operations consultant; and Dr. Mary Scollay, Equine Medical Director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

“Parx and their Pennsylvania stakeholders are to be congratulated on achieving full accreditation with the Safety and Integrity Alliance,” Koch said. “This was not a simple, nor overnight process. Rather, it is the outcome of a multi-year persistence to achieve some very important goals. Their engagement throughout has been significant and genuine. In fact, the Parx response to not just meeting the Code of Standards, but a complete response to our added recommendations has been substantial.”

(Parx Racing photo by Tom LaMarra)