When state veterinarian Bryce Peckham presented his monthly report to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on May 11, it was met with an unusual amount of enthusiasm from the regulators.
With 1,050 starters at the 15-day Keeneland spring meet, there were no catastrophic (fatal) breakdowns, the vet reported. Overall, there was only one racing injury, although three horses came off the track lame. There was one horse that died on the track during the meet, but it was sudden death unrelated to a racing injury.
"It was a great meet," Peckham said of Keeneland, where the main track is the artificial Polytrack surface.
In addition, the veterinarian reported that there were no catastrophic injuries during the two days of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on Churchill Downs' dirt surface April 30-May 1.
"There were no hiccups all day long," Peckham said of Derby Day, when the track condition was sloppy for the race card as a result of heavy rains earlier in the day.
While there was good news on the safety front, the same could not be said for the pari-mutuel wagering area.
In response to an inquiry from KHRC vice chairman Tracy Farmer, the regulators were told there was nothing they could do to reprimand or sanction the AmTote totalizator company for an equipment failure on Derby Day. The incident at the AmTote Oregon betting hub led to lost wagers through advance deposit wagering providers such as TwinSpires.com and XpressBet.com. It also affected betting outlets at Arlington Park and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Greg Lamb, hired late last year as supervisor of pari-mutuel wagering, said that because Kentucky had yet to enact regulations that license and regulate totalizator companies, there was nothing the racing commission or its staff could do as a result of the failure.
Lamb and KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood said licensing of tote companies is among the priorities for the commission, but that it is on a long list of other initiatives that are equally important.
"What we are trying to do is to get these companies licensed in the state and make sure they follow some strict standards," said Lamb, who held a similar position in Colorado, where tote companies are regulated, prior to relocating to Kentucky. "AmTote is not licensed in Kentucky so we can’t fine them. This is a market question for companies that are dealing with them."
Lamb said he had received only one complaint about the AmTote hub problem.