Industry leader Frank Stronach has taken a stand on integrity reforms and his racetracks will take the lead in implementing measures aimed at eliminating drug abuse and the mistreatment of horses, it was announced April 16.
The Stronach Group owns Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park, Pimlico Race Course, Golden Gate Fields, Laurel Park, and Portland Meadows. Its outspoken founder and chairman is one of North America's top Thoroughbred breeders, represented by his Adena Springs operations in Florida, Canada, and Lexington.
"The Stronach Group has always been committed to ensuring that our horse racing businesses operate with integrity and concern for the health and safety of the horses and the people who work with them," Stronach said in a release. "Now, more than ever, we as track operators, horsemen, and regulators must come together to do everything we can to prevent any abuse of our Thoroughbred athletes.
"We must also work diligently to ban any individuals engaged in fraudulent or harmful activities from participating in our sport. The goal of these efforts is to achieve the highest standards with respect to the integrity of our sport and the safety of our athletes, both equine and human.
"The Stronach Group is supportive of all initiatives that help achieve the goal of horses competing free from the influence of medication, and therefore fully supports the horse racing industry's first ever National Uniform Medication Program," the release said.
"The program seeks to limit the number of therapeutic medications that are needed for the routine treatment of horses and sets medication thresholds and withdrawal time guidelines. The program also provides penalty recommendations that specifically address repeat medication offenders.
"In order to be effective, these reforms must be adopted and implemented by all racing states no later than September 1, 2014," the release read. "If this deadline is not met, The Stronach Group will work together with other concerned industry stakeholders to begin aggressively lobbying for federal legislation containing the same reforms outlined in the proposed National Uniform Medication Program."
In addition to supporting the key principles of the National Uniform Medication Program, The Stronach Group said it is committed to implementing several key measures aimed at eliminating drug abuse and the mistreatment of horses at all of its racetracks.
The Stronach Group will create a strictly regulated pharmacy to dispense all medications prescribed and administered on association property, prohibit anyone from having any medications in their possession unless those medications have been properly prescribed for a therapeutic treatment program. It will institute random spot checks of veterinarians and all personnel that have access to the horse.
Automatic drug testing for all horses that ship in to race will be enacted, and The Stronach Group will establish a program of random drug testing that can be administered at any time for all horses.
The racetracks will reserve the right to ban individuals found guilty of animal abuse from competing.
Other initiatives mentioned in the release include the tracks establishing a right to request all veterinarian records and have them examined by an independent team of veterinarians, creating a shared database of all racing and training fatalities, and prohibiting the use of buzzers or other devices designed to manipulate or abuse horses.
The final initiative listed in the release was a plan to provide horse ambulances and stalls fitted with special equipment to ensure the safe and humane movement of an injured horse in order to provide immediate care with the ultimate goal of rehabilitation.
"We at The Stronach Group are committed to undertaking all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the horses and jockeys," the release said. "I hope that these proposals will be endorsed by owners, trainers, and veterinarians."
To assist with the implementation of the new proposals, The Stronach Group is searching for an equine health and safety director who will report to a newly established equine health and safety board. The members of this new board will include owners, trainers, and veterinarians.
"We owe it to the horses and the public, as well as to all of the hard-working and honest horsemen in our industry, to implement these measures," Stronach said. "As racetrack owners, we must continuously implement procedures that will enhance the integrity of this great sport, and look forward to working with all industry stakeholders to help fine-tune these proposals in order to bring about much-needed reform."
In addition to racetrack holdings and the Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida, The Stronach Group also owns the HRTV cable network, the wagering technology company AmTote, the internet and telephone account wagering company XpressBet, and the simulcast purchase group Monarch Content Management, which supplies racing content to multiple North American tracks and betting facilities.