Suffolk Downs has earned re-accreditation from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, officials said Oct. 8.
The re-accreditation followed a complete review of all racing operations at the East Boston, Mass. facility, which received its initial alliance accreditation in 2011. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.
Alliance officials said Suffolk Downs should be recognized for numerous best practices, including several that represented significant improvements from the initial inspection in 2011.
"Suffolk Downs has continued to make significant strides in its commitment to protecting horses and participants," said Mike Ziegler, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, in a release. "With extensive cooperation from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the state's new horse racing regulatory body, and its director of racing, Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, Suffolk Downs has developed into an exemplar of what we aspire to across the industry."
In the area of injury reporting and prevention, Suffolk's best practices identified included required post-mortem veterinary examinations for all on-track fatalities and the enforcement efforts involved with the veterinarians' list for horse unfit to compete, where all horses working to be removed from the list have blood testing conducted for all substances - with penalties for bad tests being the same as a post-race sample.
In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices included substance abuse treatment and addiction treatment, along with testing of licensees. The Eighth Pole, the on-site substance abuse program, especially stood out for its quality of treatment and services and sustained funding mechanism. Also, all licensees on horseback as well as all assistant starters wear approved safety helmets.
Additionally, Suffolk Downs and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission have written regulatory veterinary protocols and standard operating procedures geared toward maintaining the integrity in its racing product. These include recording the coming and going of all veterinarians at the stable gate, the daily collection of veterinarian administration records, and written manuals provided to practicing veterinarians and trainers.
Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included full participation in the Jockey Injury Database.
The track also received commendation from the inspection team for its commitment to horse welfare, including one of the nation's strictest anti-slaughter policies and a sustainable fundraising method for retired racehorse adoption. Track executives are directly involved in adopting retired Thoroughbreds that raced at Suffolk Downs and the horsemen commit $20,000 annually to aftercare.
Further, Suffolk Downs exceeded the minimum set of standards in the three areas related to wagering security: Wagering Incident Prevention Protocols, Wagering Incident Investigation Protocols, and Wagering Pool Due Diligence.
Members of the alliance inspection team at Suffolk Downs were Ron Jensen, former equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board; Jim Gates, consultant and former general manager of Churchill Downs; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant and past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators; and Ziegler.
"We are proud to receive this re-accreditation as it recognizes one of our primary objectives as a racetrack, which is to ensure the safety of the horses that race here, as well as the men and women who ride them and care for them," said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, in a statement. "We thank our employees and horsemen for their efforts in helping us attain this achievement and we commend the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for its ongoing commitment to a safe and fair racing environment."