The National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance is having an impact on the racing industry despite some misconceptions and will not be derailed, NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop said.
Waldrop discussed the alliance, which was formed in the fall of 2008, Oct. 18 at Keeneland during the opening session of the organization’s second professional education seminar. The program’s focus this year is aftercare for retired racehorses as well as education for trainers and veterinarians.
The alliance has implemented a code of standards for Thoroughbred racing and has accredited more than 20 racetracks. Various “best practices” have developed from the accreditation process, which is voluntary.
Waldrop said in an industry with “decentralized power” and “fractious” participants, the alliance provides a framework for change. With horse racing governed on the state level, change requires action by individual regulatory agencies.
“The alliance is far from perfect but it can bring focused, meaningful, and lasting change,” Waldrop said. “Too often in this business perfection is the enemy of the good. Such small thinking will not be the undoing of the alliance, or the NTRA for that matter.”
Waldrop said the alliance was created because the racing industry lacked the structure necessary to get health and safety initiatives implemented. It was endorsed by about 55 racetracks and horsemen’s groups when it was launched.
“In some ways the alliance is the industry’s answer to unfunded (government) mandates,” Waldrop said. “Contrary to popular opinion, it really does have the teeth of state government. The alliance is not anti-government; it keeps government focused on where we need it—safety and integrity.”
The alliance is attempting to increase participation in several ways, one of which is getting state regulators to mandate participation. Even without mandates, about 12 racing commissions have embraced the concept, Waldrop said.
Questions about the alliance’s relevance continue to be asked within the racing industry, and Waldrop said the NTRA staff regularly asks the same questions to ensure the organization is having an impact and assisting the industry.
“We’re three years into this, and every day brings a new revelation and surprises,” Waldrop said. “We ask ourselves, ‘Why is this relevant?’ Every organization in racing needs to ask itself that question.”