Pimlico's Strong Finish

By Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA


I have been blogging about the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance for almost two years now.  What happened this week was some of the best Alliance news yet.  Pimlico has now been fully accredited.

Why is this development such good news?  Because, just prior to the 2009 running of the Preakness, Pimlico Race Course was provisionally accredited by the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance which meant that Pimlico met the majority of standards set forth in the Alliance Code of Standards but fell short in a few specific areas.  Pimlico had to agree to a specific timetable for meeting the remainder of the standards or risk revocation of its accreditation. Since that time, Pimlico and the Maryland Racing Commission have been busy.

Last year, jockeys riding at Pimlico were not using the new cushioned riding crop.  This year, through the efforts of management at the Maryland Jockey Club, riders in every race use the kinder crops.  This was originally conducted under a "house rule" at the racetrack, but subsequently Pimlico petitioned the Maryland Racing Commission to pass a rule requiring use of the softer crops, which the Commission promptly accomplished. 

This is exactly how it is supposed to work.  Under pressure to receive accreditation, Pimlico pushed its racing commission to pass the model rule regarding riding crops, and the commission responded exactly as requested.  No federal intervention.  No public outcry or embarrassment.  Just a good rule recommended by The Jockey Club Safety Committee, promptly implemented by the Maryland Racing Commission at the urging of Pimlico and the Alliance.  Easy as pie.  A virtual hand ride to the wire.

But there's more.  Last year, horses racing at Pimlico were not tested for elevated levels of TC02 (also known as milk shaking) until after they had raced-which is not an ideal way to test for TCO2.  This year, at the urging of Pimlico and with assistance from the Alliance and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), the Maryland Racing Commission has implemented a much-preferred pre-race sampling program.  You see, after studying TCO2 levels extensively, the RMTC determined that pre-race testing is superior to post-race sampling.  The Racing Commissioners International (RCI) even incorporated the pre-race testing regimen recommended by the RMTC into its Model Rules. But it took the accreditation process to implement the change at the track level.  As a direct result of Pimlico petitioning its racing commission for the change as required by the Alliance for accreditation, integrity has improved in Maryland. 

The same is true for out-of-competition testing.  Last year, there were no out-of-competition testing rules or procedures in place in the state of Maryland.  Again, to move from provisional to full accreditation, Pimlico had to request that the Maryland Racing Commission adopt a rule and a testing protocol.  Now an out-of-competition rule is in the process of being adopted in Maryland.  The same holds true for a frozen-sample testing protocol.  All because Pimlico diligently pursued full accreditation over the fall and winter months in Maryland.

In order to be fully accredited, Pimlico also had to perform an independent security assessment at its facility and create a written compliance plan.  These may not sound exciting, but both help ensure that the Pimlico staff is doing everything right in order to comply with the Alliance Code of Standards during every race, every day.

Pimlico deserves to be congratulated for its achievement.  Through its efforts, significant change has taken place in Maryland.  And this change will not simply be enforced voluntarily, but with the force of law as administered by the State of Maryland.     

So, the Maryland Racing Commission should also be congratulated for its efforts.  Maryland is now aligned with the national performance enhancing drug and therapeutic medication standards as set forth in the RCI Model Rules.   The Commission has also incorporated the most current safety standards into the rules and regulations in Maryland.   As we often point out, tracks going through the accreditation process simply cannot succeed without the cooperation and support of their state racing commissions.  

Together, Pimlico Racetrack and the Maryland Racing Commission stepped up in a big way for Maryland racing. Horsemen and fans (not to mention horses) can all be thankful for that.

Recent Posts

More Blogs