The fourth Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit concluded Wednesday morning in Lexington, Ky., as racing commission representatives discussed the implementation of safety initiatives and four other speakers made presentations on Thoroughbred aftercare.
Like the three previous summits, held in October 2006, March 2008 and June 2010, the summit was underwritten and coordinated by The Jockey Club and Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and hosted by Keeneland Association.
The two-day conference in the Keeneland sales pavilion brought together a cross-section of the Thoroughbred industry, including owners, breeders, trainers, veterinarians, horsemen, jockeys, track managers and regulators.
Among the points expressed by presenters, in order of presentation, during the two-day summit:
- Dr. Mick Petersen, who oversees the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, emphasized that regular testing and proactive investment are necessary to improve racetrack safety. He said that the lab has worked with 40 racetracks and tested surface samples from 70 racing and training surfaces both domestically and internationally. Petersen also cited statistics from the Equine Injury Database that show that synthetic surfaces were safer than turf and turf was safer than dirt, although the best dirt track is almost as safe as a synthetic track.
Matt Iuliano, the executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club, provided a summary of The Jockey Club's Reformed Racing Medication Rules and the organization's efforts seeking endorsements from industry organizations in addition to the American Quarter Horse Association, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations. The goal of the reformed rules is to create a uniform national medication rule book. Iuliano noted the wide range of regulatory approaches with frequently used therapeutic medications.
- Dr. Tim Parkin, an epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow and a consultant to the Equine Injury Database (created in the wake of the first summit), updated the audience on the database. He said the database now contains more than 40,000 reports and that 89 racetracks and the National Steeplechase Association participate, representing 93 percent of flat racing days and 100 percent of steeplechase races. Parkin also touched on an at-risk program in development that would identify horses that may be at higher risk for injury before a race. He said the intent was not to pull horses out of races but to look further at some of them that may be "at risk."
Dr. Wayne McIlwraith of Colorado State University addressed the use of corticosteroids and discussed the various benefits and side effects of different products. He also referenced a recently presented study at Melbourne University: looking at horses with pre-existing conditions, horses treated with corticosteroids face a five times greater risk of injury than untreated horses.
Joe Gorajec, the longtime executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, addressed the topic of continuing education for trainers. He stressed that vital scientific presentations like those made at the summit "should not lie dormant in a cubby hole in cyberspace." He said that mandatory continuing education "is not only doable but worth doing."
- Mike Ziegler, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), said that the recent announcement about broad-based funding of the TAA proves that "the industry is working together to solve its aftercare issues." In the same session, Kristin Leshney, legal associate for The Jockey Club, announced that The Jockey Club will continue its well-received Thoroughbred Incentive Program in 2013. The program rewards retired Thoroughbred racehorses that now compete in horse shows.
For the first time, all sessions were open to the public and the entire summit was available on a live video stream. Nearly 200 people attended and several hundred watched online. In addition, highlights from the summit were tweeted steadily by numerous media representatives and others in attendance or watching the video stream.
PowerPoint presentations from various speakers at the summit are available at: grayson-jockeyclub.org/WelfareSafety/default.asp?section=44
A video replay will be available at a later date.
This summit included updates on initiatives first identified at earlier editions of the summit as well as recommendations for future implementation.
"We look upon the summit as a 'think tank' for this industry," said James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. "This edition proved, beyond a doubt, that previous summits have indeed borne fruit and that the committees formed at the first few summits are still working hard to enhance the welfare and safety of our athletes."
The presentations and panels on Tuesday were: Surface Testing Laboratory Update; Reformed Racing Medication Rules Update; Identification of Illegal Riding Crops and Proper Crop Use; An Honest Look at Training (a trainer panel with an open discussion on horsemanship and training techniques); The Importance of Pre-Race Inspections (Inspection of horse in back walking ring and presentation in sales pavilion); Breeders' Cup - Health, Safety and Security; Equine Injury Database Update; Selected Effects of Training & Racing on the Musculoskeletal System; Corticosteroids and the Horse in Training; Trainer Continuing Education Programs; and Safety Committees at Racetracks.
The panels on Wednesday were the Racing Commissioners Panel (Implementing Safety Initiatives) and Totally Aftercare