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
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
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
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
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.