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Monday, March 02, 2009

Churchill Downs Announces Enhanced Horse Safety and Welfare Policies

by Fran Jurga | 2 March 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Kentucky's Churchill Downs Incorporated ("CDI") announced new safety and welfare rules today. These measures will be in place at the Louisville racetrack in advance of the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 2, and will include unprecedented standardized third-party testing of track surfaces and comprehensive tests on all winning horses for more than 100 prohibited drugs.

The safety initiatives will be implemented at Churchill Downs when its 2009 Spring Meet opens on April 25, and will be phased in at all other racetracks owned by the Churchill Downs group (Arlington Park in Illinois; Calder Race Course in Florida; and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in Louisiana) by the start of their respective 2010 race meets.

In development for nearly a year, the “Safety from Start to Finish” initiative is designed to incorporate new health and wellness measures, as well as long-standing safety policies and standards, under a single formalized initiative to serve as a blueprint for all CDI facilities.

The key safety initiatives that will be in place at Churchill Downs prior to Kentucky Derby 135 are as follows; the wording is as presented by Churchill Downs' official announcement:

1. Independent, standardized third-party testing and monitoring of track surfaces;
2. “Supertesting” of all winning horses for more than 100 performance-enhancing drugs;
3. Age restrictions requiring Thoroughbreds to be at least 24 calendar months of age before becoming eligible to race;
4. The freezing and storage of equine blood and urine samples to allow for retrospective testing;
5. The banning of steroids;
6. Limits on the number of horses allowed to compete in certain races;
7. The prohibition of “milkshaking”, which results in excessive levels of total carbon dioxide in Thoroughbred racehorses;
8. Prohibiting the transport of horses from CDI facilities for slaughter;
9. The banning of unsafe horseshoes, including front shoe toe grabs longer than two millimeters;
10. The use of low-impact riding whips with limited usage rules;
11. The presence of on-site medical personnel, equipment, and state-of-the-art equine ambulances;
12. Immediate online access to jockey medical histories for emergency medical personnel;
13. $1 million in catastrophic injury insurance coverage for jockeys;
14. Mandatory and uniform reporting of equine injuries to the Equine Injury Database System, thereby assisting in the compilation of statistics and trends to improve safety conditions around the country;
15. A professionally designed and installed safety rail on the inside of the dirt course;
16. Mandatory usage by all jockeys, exercise riders and other on-track personnel of safety vests and safety helmets that meet internationally acknowledged quality standards;
17. 3/8-inch foam padding on all parts of the starting gates;
18. Significant financial support for equine retirement programs;
19. Inspection of all horses by regulatory veterinarians prior to and following all races;
20. Review of security procedures around barns and other racetrack backstretch areas;
21. Continued maintenance of protocols for the treatment of horses that have been injured during racing or training, to ensure the most humane treatment possible; and
22. Mandatory, independent, and complete necropsies of any horse that dies as a result of an injury sustained while racing or training at Churchill Downs.

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3 comments:

cj said...

I'm a little off-topic here, but I always love the HoofBlog and was especially intrigued by some of your Triple Crown coverage last year. This year, I'm reading that The Pamplemousse has a really strange way of going - are there videos around? I'd love to read your take on his gait.

Fran Jurga said...

Hi CJ, you're right about The Pamplemousse. For any non-racing fans out there: CJ is referring to a big 3 year old colt in California who won the Sham Stakes this weekend at Santa Anita and who may be headed to the Kentucky Derby.

I would not pretend to be an analyst of why he runs that way, CJ, but it seems to work for him. I remember AP Indy and Lure as two stakes horses of the past who ran with a certain style that looked so different from the others--but it got them to the winner's circle.

There are many reasons why horses run a certain way--to favor old injuries, to keep their windpipes at a certain angle, to avoid having dirt kicked in their faces--but The Pamplemousse doesn't seem to have any sort of problem to compensate for.

I haven't seen any closeup conformation details that would reveal anything is amiss. I think he is just probably a really big colt who also has the ability to combine an increased in both stride length and stride frequency. He just doesn't do it very gracefully but that may change as he matures.

Now if he can just stay sound for the next 60 days...I'd love to see him come east for the Derby and just keep running!

You can see videos of his races on bloodhorse.com or equibase.com but they are sort of choppy and you can't tell much about his stride characteristic. On YouTube there are some videos of him walking and training.

Anonymous said...

Fran,
These measures should level the playing field for truely international equality of races and racing. Good on you Kentucky.
PNB.