Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Penn National Tracks Will Ban Toe Grabs on Racehorses

Mitch Taylor has been shoeing and re-shoeing horses at the Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky as part of the Grayson Jockey Club Foundation's Welfare and Safety Summit's Shoeing Committee's mission to understand how different shoes affect a horse's gait on different surfaces. Both the Keeneland training and main tracks have been converted to Polytrack, a surface that the track promotes as safer than traditional dirt. Mitch will present new research from these studies on August 5th at the Hoofcare@Saratoga event in Saratoga Springs, New York. This photo is  a still from the high speed video presentation by Mitch presented at the Fourth International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot in November 2007.

This is a sensitive subject, so I am going to present this information in the form of the press release that was sent to me. Penn National owns both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing facilities, including Penn National, Charles Town in West Virginia, Bangor Raceway in Maine, Freehold in New Jersey, etc. Here's what they sent out yesterday:

(begin press release)
Penn National Gaming, Inc., the second largest owner of pari-mutuel racing facilities in North America, today announced the implementation of several initiatives intended to ensure the continued health and safety of equine participants at its racetracks. These initiatives include limiting the height of toe grabs on front shoes worn by race horses, endorsing rules for new riding crops for Thoroughbred jockeys, and recommending, at a minimum, the adoption of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) model rule regarding Androgenic Anabolic Steroids.

The initiatives follow the recently issued recommendations of The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Safety Committee. Founded in 1894, the Jockey Club is dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing and is the breed registry for North American Thoroughbreds.

“Penn National Gaming endorses and embraces The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee’s recommendations which are sound steps toward ensuring the health and welfare of our equine participants,” said Chris McErlean, Vice President of Racing for Penn National Gaming. “We have outlined a plan to introduce several of these recommendations at our horse racing facilities over the next few months. In addition, we will actively promote the adoption of permanent rules and regulations for these items with regulators in every one of the six jurisdictions where we conduct racing. We have identified several other areas where information, uniformity and cooperation are needed to achieve additional results to benefit the industry and expect that other responsible pari-mutuel facility owners and industry leaders will follow our actions.”

Penn National Gaming owns and operates gaming and racing facilities with a focus on slot machine entertainment. The Company presently operates nineteen facilities in fifteen jurisdictions, including Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ontario. Penn National is the second largest owner of pari-mutuel facilities in North America and conducts over 1,000 dates of live racing annually. Total wagering at its pari-mutuel facilities on live and simulcast racing totaled nearly $850 million in 2007.

(end press release)

From what I can tell, this ban on toe grabs would be what is called a "house rule". Individual states have rules regarding shoes; Kentucky banned toe grabs on a statewide basis this week. However, apparently an individual track or even a meet, can have separate rules, if I understand the process correctly. The New York Racing Association, or "NYRA", is an example of an affiliated group of tracks--Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga--but a NYRA rule might not apply at Finger Lake Race Track or Vernon Downs in western New York state, for instance, if I understand correctly.

Therefore, this rule would affect only horses racing and training at tracks governed by Penn National Gaming. For instance, it would not affect Presque Isle in Pennsylvania or Mountaineer Park in West Virginia, which are not part of the Penn National group, as far as I know.

Click here to read the Hoof Blog's announcement about the recent Kentucky decision to change its shoeing rules.

Click here to read the Jockey Club's recommendation for a rule change.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure you've explained this before, but what makes this a sensitive subject? (I'm pretty clueless on the equipment.)