Michael Burns

NTRA Safety Alliance Re-Accredits Woodbine

Ontario racetrack gains approval for upcoming meet after full review of operations.

Woodbine has earned re-accreditation for its Thoroughbred operations from the the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance, the NTRA announced April 9.

Located near Toronto, Ontario, the track opens a 133-day meet April 12 and continues live racing into December. The season's highlights include the $1 million Queen's Plate—first leg of Canada's Triple Crown of racingon July 6 and the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Milewon each of the past two years by eventual Horse of the Year Wise Danon Sept. 14.

Woodbine's re-accreditation followed a complete review of all racing operations at the facility. Woodbine received its initial Alliance accreditation in 2010, soon after the Alliance's formation. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.

During the latest Alliance inspection of Woodbine, best practices were identified in virtually every primary area of focus for the Alliance.

"In its review, Woodbine exceeded established benchmarks in the vast majority of areas," said Mike Ziegler, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. "The highest best practice grading was awarded in 27 areas, which places Woodbine among the leading North American racetracks in commitment to safety and integrity."

In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included the reporting of injuries and fatalities, pre- and post-race veterinary examinations, and an active injury review committee to monitor all on-track injuries.

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Woodbine included regulation and enforcement for riding crops, helmets, and safety vests; use of padded starting gates; substance abuse and addiction treatment; appropriate funding of industry safety research; data collection protocols to assist in proper racing surface maintenance; safety training and continuing education for track employees that work with horses; catastrophic injury planning and procedures; planning for infectious disease management; fire safety planning and procedures; saddling paddock and walking ring safety protocols; on-call veterinary treatment available during all racing and training hours; appropriate oversight of the official veterinarian; and proper dissemination of all house rules.

In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included exogenous anabolic steroids regulation; out-of-competition testing for blood doping agents at on-track and off-track locations; and appropriate communication of medication and testing standards.

Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included high standards for jockey licensing.

Woodbine also was commended for best practices in protocols relating to security across several areas. Those included: hiring, pre-employment drug testing, training, staffing, communications, surveillance, access to restricted areas, shipping procedures and record keeping, test barn protocol, and licensing. Regarding wagering security, best practices were recognized for wagering incident prevention, wagering incident investigation and due diligence for access to wagering pools.

"Woodbine looks forward to the bi-annual re-accreditation process where we confirm our commitment to the highest standards of safety and integrity," said Steve Koch, track vice president of racing. "This most important program of the NTRA has become an essential element in our management decisions throughout the racing year. Our team prides themselves on achieving best practice ratings in numerous areas and we always look forward to applying best practices gleaned from other accredited tracksperhaps the program's most substantial contribution to the industry."

Woodbine is one of 22 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance. Others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, Calder Casino and Race Course, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Fairplex Park, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park, Monmouth Park, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Suffolk Downs, Sunland Park, and Turfway Park.

The Alliance, formed in October 2008 with the goal of establishing national uniform standards in the areas of safety and integrity, includes 55 racetracks in North America and every major national horsemen's organization. Alliance certification standards cover six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; safety research; and wagering security.