The California Horse Racing Board April 11 approved an allocation of $2.85 million over the next three years for continuation of its racing injury prevention program with the University of California-Davis.
The board, meeting at Santa Anita Park, gave unanimous approval to the program, which will cost the agency $950,000 per year.
The enhanced necropsy program, which began last year, is being conducted by the J.D. Wheat Orthopedic Research Laboaratory at UC-Davis. Despite its expense, it drew strong endorsements from CHRB executive director Kirk Breed and Dr. Rick Arthur, the board's equine medical director.
Breed noted that the CHRB is required by the state to identify the cause of equine deaths. For 20 years, he said, the board "kind of found the cause" by usually blaming track condition or the horse for taking a bad step. For the first time, he said the board is making inroads into the actual reasons horses break down.
"We have learned so much from this project about racetrack injuries," said Breed.
Arthur noted that in at least 85% of cases, horses suffering racetrack fatalities have pre-existing conditions. By educating trainers and veterinarians about what to look for, many of these injuries have been avoided, he said.
"I think we're going to be down significantly this year," Arthur said, estimating that actual equine fatalities as the result of racing injuries should be around 200 for the current fiscal year. He said the Davis program is responsible for much of the improvement. He said there were 278 equine deaths in the previous year.
Breed also credited the racetracks for helping out by putting more effort than ever behind improving and maintaining their racing surfaces, and by funding more complete pre-race veterinary examinations of horses.
The racing injury prevention program uses specialized analytical examinations of necropsy specimens to determine the musculoskeletal changes leading to bone fractures. Over a 15-month period ending Oct. 1, 2012, the Davis program conducted 156 enhanced necropsies in cases attributable to musculoskeletal injuries and found pre-existing conditions, or lesions, leading to breakdowns in 132 of them (85%), according to a CHRB staff report.
A nine-task approach has been developed by the CHRB "designed to establish the reasons that particular fatal injury patterns develop and the steps that need to be taken to significantly reduce their occurrence," the report said.
The state's Office of Legal Services must approved the contract before it goes into effect.
In other action, the board gave conditional approval to Lien Games Racing to conduct advance deposit wagering in California. Pending submission of several outstanding agreements, the North Dakota-based company plans to begin taking wagers from California residents April 25. Lien Games' best-known wagering site is BetAmerica. It joins TVG, Xpressbet, and Twinspires as approved ADW providers in the state.
In a separate action the board agreed to amend Xpressbet's ADW application to add a new website, DerbyJackpot.com, to its license. Xpressbet has entered into a marketing agreement with the new company, which caters to casual social gaming customers who have little or no experience betting on racing. Xpressbet will handle all wagering functions.
The board approved Silky Sullivan's restaurant and bar in Carlsbad, a city in northern San Diego County, as a new mini-satellite location.
It also approved summer fair racing license applications for the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton to run June 19 to July 9, and for Cal Expo in Sacramento from July 10-23.
A federal proposal, H.R. 1094, which would prohibit horse slaughter in the U.S. for human consumption, was endorsed unanimously by the board.
Board chairman David Israel announced that the annual dates allocation process for 2014, which would ordinarily begin in late summer, will instead commence at the board's May 23 meeting in Sacramento. With the possible closure of Betfair Hollywood Park looming at the end of the year, Israel said the board would need extra time "for what we anticipate will be a great number of changes" in the coming year's calendar.