By Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA
First, I want to
thank everyone who responded to my last blog entitled "Strategic
Thinking." The overwhelming response I received from so many of you
speaks volumes about the passion and enthusiasm
of racing's fans. Rest assured that I personally have
read every single comment at least once, and we are incorporating many of your
ideas into our discussions with the NTRA Board.
In the midst of
preparations for our strategic planning session next week, I have traveled to
Del Mar to lead another Alliance accreditation inspection as I did at Hollywood
Park several weeks ago. Del Mar is a special place where horse racing is
central to almost everything that happens in the community, especially during
the meet. It is exciting to be here.
We spent time today
talking to trainers, outriders, the track surface specialist and others about
Del Mar's commitment to safety and integrity.
every discussion included the topic of
synthetic vs. dirt racing surfaces. Let me be clear. The Alliance
Code of Conduct is neutral on the topic of surface material. The Alliance
supports a safer racing environment regardless of the composition of the track.
At this stage, our focus is on making sure that tracks and horsemen participate
in national safety initiatives like the injury reporting data base and the
racetrack surface study. (In both instances, Del Mar was an early
Mar is also participating in an exciting study which will link data from the
injury reporting data base, the surface study and other pertinent data to help
learn more about the causes and conditions that lead to career-ending and/or
catastrophic injury. Research and science will lead us to the safest
The goal of the
Alliance is to get tracks and horsemen to work cooperatively to identify
solutions that will minimize human and equine injuries. The Alliance is
not about an unrealistic goal of eliminating injuries altogether.
Accidents-even high profile ones like that which occurred to Mi Rey and Rafael
Bejarano on opening day at Del Mar-will never completely go away. But we can
take steps to make sure that they are as rare as possible.
Alliance progress to
date is encouraging to say the least - Monmouth was accredited earlier this
week - but much work remains. And as you read periodic accounts of the latest
track being accredited, keep one very important fact in mind: The Alliance code
is extremely strict and demanding. Much in the way a law student would not
bother taking the bar exam until he felt he was properly prepared, so it is
with racetracks and our accreditation process. Those that have availed themselves
of our inspections have reviewed the code and determined that they are worthy
of being carefully reviewed. Many proudly relish this scrutiny, which comes
from a team of independent veterinarians and regulators in addition to NTRA
staff. I'm not surprised that most applicants have received full accreditation.
What I really hope is that by the end of next year, all U.S. tracks will be
confident enough in their facilities and procedures to similarly submit
themselves, their racetracks and their reputations to this same level of
Do me another
favor. Make it a point to know those tracks that have been accredited and
let them know you appreciate their efforts by attending their facilities and/or
betting on their races. Money talks. The more you support the
industry leaders who are accredited by the Alliance, the sooner more positive
changes will occur in this industry. What industry-related factors have caused
you to choose one track over another in the past? Safety? Takeout? Full fields?
Let me know.