RCI Panel Discusses Ideas for Racehorse Safety
Emphatic calls for change in dealing with horse racing injuries and related prevention methods were made April 24 during a panel discussion at the annual Association of Racing Commissioners International Conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

North American regulators in attendance at a Snake River Lodge & Spa conference center heard TOBA chairman Bill Casner make a passionate speech lobbying for the banning of toe grabs, an update by Florida veterinarian Dr. Mary Scollay on a fledgling racetrack injury reporting database, and pleas for standardization in racetrack surface certification by Dr. M.L. “Mick” Peterson.

Casner, who is also the co-owner of WinStar Farm, said the only solution for the inordinate amount of catastrophic injuries connected to toe grabs is to outlaw that particular horseshoe variation.

“To me, the solution is simple, and I think most of the top trainers have already realized this,” said Casner, who cited research which shows toe grabs are evident in 90% of all catastrophic injuries.

Scollay said 23 tracks are now on board to provide injury data for a standardized national database she will manage, a project that was first discussed at the “Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit” held last October. The official launch date is June 1, and the racetrack vet is looking both for funding and additional tracks to jump on board. She said an analysis of national data might be available in about six months, but won’t include released data on individual tracks.

“That’s for them to decide if they want to release the data,” said Scollay, who conducted a similar type of data collection this past winter at Gulfstream Park, where, along with Calder Race Course, she serves as chief veterinarian. “The data will show the track where they stack up nationally.

“There is no point in trying to compare, say, Saratoga to Mountaineer Park,” she continued, “because they are two entirely different populations of horses.”

Peterson, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, said it is imperative to have standardized certification for surfaces, adding that there is no better reason than the advent of synthetic surfaces.

“I have concern with synthetics in that if synthetic tracks don’t solve all the problems, then there will be another backlash in five years or so,” he said.

He noted that there are different varieties of synthetic substance compositions, and that some are “tweaked” to meet certain weather conditions or in reaction to other issues that arise with the surface.

The annual RCI conference, which features regulators from 38 member states and nine neighboring territories and countries, is scheduled to run through April 27.

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