PHRC reports progress on equine safety plan; HISA process discussed

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 27, 2022

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission Oct. 26 provided an update on the progress of its Equine Safety and Welfare Plan and also discussed its ongoing efforts to comply with rules and regulations put forth by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.

Tom Chuckas, PHRC Thoroughbred Bureau Director, said that during the third quarter of 2022 the number of Thoroughbred equine deaths was 19 compared with 23 for the same July-through-September period in 2021. The PHRC, as part of the plan, developed a database to track equine deaths in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.

Chuckas also reported that during the third quarter of this year, five horses were placed on the vet’s list after training, 30 were placed on the vet’s list—and four retired—after racing, and 30 horses were placed on the vet’s list after pre-race exams. The PHRC integrity hotline, launched March 1 of this year, had 79 calls through Sept. 30, with 75 of the cases closed. One of the hotline tips resulted in a jockey at Parx Racing being suspended for position of an electrical device.

“It’s helping the commission and the staff to investigate worthwhile cases,” Chuckas said.

Year to date, the PHRC has conducted 865 out-of-competition tests, both breeds combined, with a goal of reaching 1,000 samples by the end of 2022.

The PHRC also recently received its 2023 assessment and “voluntary agreement” from HISA, which launched its Racetrack Safety Program July 1 and will enact its Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program Jan. 1, 2023. Nationally, HISA’s total budget is in excess of $75 million for next year.

Chuckas said PHRC staff is reviewing legal, personnel and operational issues as it did before the launch of the Racetrack Safety Program. The staff was scheduled to meet this week with representatives of the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit, which is overseeing the ADMC program for HISA.

“We’ll make our best efforts to work collaboratively with HISA,” Chuckas said. “We’ll try to meet the deadlines. We may not make all of them but we’ll work toward solutions that are in the best interest of Pennsylvania racing.”