Evolution You Can Believe In

 
The NTRA’s Safety and Integrity Alliance has just published a new version of its Code of Standards. Why should you care?  What difference does the Code make?  For that matter, what difference is the Alliance making?  These are all questions I hear from time to time and they deserve straight-forward answers.
 
First, here is a summary of the more prominent changes.
 
Injury reporting at accredited tracks will now be expanded to include horses that suffer a fatal injury during training hours.  Previously, accredited tracks only had to report racing-related injuries. This will expand our research data base and give us a clearer picture of the kinds and causes of injuries to racehorses – and to their riders.  
 
Another important change is the requirement that accredited tracks use a common pre-race examination database so that all accredited tracks will now share pre-race exam data.  This will provide the inspecting vet with more and better data to assist him or her in conducting the best pre-race exam possible.   Knowing what another vet observed (or didn’t observe) in a previous exam will make each subsequent exam more accurate and complete—which, in turn, will lead to safer horses and safer riders.  
 
To be accredited, tracks will now have to assure that post-mortem examinations are being performed on horses that suffer a fatal injury during training hours.  Again, the goal is a more accurate, complete injury data base.
 
Another important change to the Code is the requirement that vet lists (the lists of horses not permitted to run due to veterinary issues) be shared among jurisdictions.  This is to prevent an injured horse from being entered to race at another track without going through the required steps for veterinary clearance.  
 
Another Code change requires accredited tracks to ensure that at least one practicing veterinarian is available at the track during both racing and training hours.
 
The new Code will also require tracks to make Jockey Health Information Systems participation mandatory.  This assures that in the event of accident or injury, the relevant medical history and information will be readily available to the treating physician.  Given how frequently some jockeys travel, having this information in a common repository makes a lot of sense.  
 
Last but not least, to be accredited in 2011 and beyond, tracks will have to develop written procedures and protocols for human healthcare.  These will relate primarily to things like ambulance availability, first aid capabilities and overall emergency staffing during racing and training hours.  Horse safety is vital but so is human safety. 

It is axiomatic that the safety of horse and rider and the integrity of our sport are paramount concerns for all participants in racing.  The Alliance Code of Standards is the embodiment of these industry priorities.  Alliance accreditation is proof that an accredited track – and its regulators, jockeys, vets and horsemen - are each complying with the Alliance Code of Standards in all material respects.  But it doesn’t stop there.  

Accreditation is a process. It requires constant monitoring for current compliance with the Code of Standards, and it requires re-accreditation every two years to make sure that the latest safety and integrity upgrades have been implemented.  That’s why the Alliance Code of Standards must be constantly reviewed and revised.

With 19 tracks (accounting for about 70% of nationwide handle) now accredited, and as many as 8-10 new tracks seeking accreditation in 2011, the tide is turning in favor of safety and integrity.  Click here for a recent story in Daily Racing Form about pre-race inspections. Those who embrace Alliance accreditation and the discipline it imposes are changing the business for the better.  Those who don’t believe in accreditation are holding this business back.  What about your local track?  Is it accredited?  If not, ask management why not.  Ask them, “What do you have to lose?”… or perhaps even, “What is preventing you from seeking accreditation?”     

Finally, you may have noticed that we have included no specific changes to the Code related to the Life at Ten situation.  That’s because the issue is still under consideration by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.  If and when needed changes are identified and recommended by the Alliance Advisory Committee, the Alliance will not hesitate to implement those changes by further updating the Code.

Have you read the Life at Ten investigative materials issued by the KHRC?  What do you think of the changes to the Alliance Code?  Let me hear from you.

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