Turf and Surf

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.

Inevitably, almost 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 participant.) .

Del 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 racing surfaces.

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 scrutiny.

 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.



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