19 Calif. Claims Voided in Rule's First Month

Sales rescinded when horses were placed on veterinarian's list after post-race exam.

A new California rule that rescinds the claim of a horse placed on the veterinarian's list following the race in which the claim was submitted resulted in 19 of 229 purchases being voided at three tracks in the first month.

In a report to the California Horse Racing Board June 20 at Betfair Hollywood Park, Dr. Rick Arthur, the board's equine medical director, explained that voided claims at Hollywood, Los Alamitos Race Course, and Golden Gate Fields from May 16 to June 16 came after post-race examinations in which the track's official veterinarian declared the horses unsound or lame.

During the period, successful claims were made in 85 of 91 cases at Hollywood Park, 60 of 66 at Los Alamitos, and 65 of 72 at Golden Gate. The total value of the voided claims was $209,200, or an average of $11,010.

The 8.3% of claimed horses landing on the vet's list for the one-month period was significantly higher than the 2.5% of all claimed horses that wound up on the list from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2012 (128 of 5,212), Arthur noted.

"I believe the reason for this is that the new procedures now require the official or association veterinarian to specifically examine claimed horses for unsoundness or lameness prior to being released to the claimant. That was not the case before," Arthur told the board.

"In any case, as with all new regulations, there is a break-in period when everyone is adjusting to the new rule," he added. "I expect things to settle down soon enough."

Arthur said that after speaking with stewards at the three tracks, he feels the new procedures "are working well administratively."

None of the 19 horses placed on the vet's list have returned to race, although Arthur said that is to be expected given the relatively short time period in question. Horses placed on the list must work satisfactorily for the official or track vet and pass a post-work blood test before being allowed to start again.

Arthur said the post-race examination given in the receiving barn is much like the pre-race checks made by the official veterinarian. However, the stress of racing can often reveal soundness issues that were not apparent beforehand.

Trainer Peter Miller questioned the objectivity of the examinations and also objected to the connotation of the rulethat trainers were attempting to rid themselves of unsound horses through the claiming process.

"You are all making us look like criminals," Miller said.

"It's a bad rule, in my opinion," he said. "It's too subjective. It's ripe for corruption. I believe this rule is going to send owners and trainers running for the borders."

Miller complained that a horse that suffers pulmonary bleeding during a race would not go on the vet's list, while a horse that "ties up" after a race because of a muscle cramp would wind up on the list. He argued for a return to the previous rules in which a buyer had no protection in claiming a horse.

"Claiming goes back more than 100 years. It was a perfect system," he said. "Everyone knows that claiming a horse can be risky. Anything can happen once the gate opens."

Miller was the only trainer to speak against the new rule.

Commissioner Chuck Winner, who serves on the CHRB equine safety committee that drafted the rule adopted by the board in February, said the policy will continue to receive scrutiny. He suggested that Miller and others that have suggestions attend the committee's next meeting in July at Del Mar.

"We all agreed it may not be perfect but that it was the best of the recommendations that came to the committee over the past year," Winner said. "We agreed that it wasn't perfect and would have to be adjusted at some point.

"It's only been 30 days. We've got to look at the numbers. This is not enough time, in my view, to change it, to throw it out, or accept it entirely. My view is we ought to keep looking at thisthe objective is the safety of the horse and the safety of the person riding the horse."