Prodded by a rash of equine deaths at Aqueduct Racetrack last winter, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board Oct. 11 imposed what officials promised will be just the first round of rules intended to make it safer for racehorses and jockeys.
The emergency rule-making actions by the NYSRWB came just a few weeks after a task force of industry experts, created in the wake of the Aqueduct deaths, issued a 100-page report filled with new reform ideas affecting everything from equine medication to claiming races to internal procedures at the New York Racing Association.
"These actions will provide a safer racing environment both for horses and jockeys," NYSRWB chairman John Sabini said. "The industry has woken up to the fact that everyone wants a safe racetrack for everyone. We want to see New York be the leader in that."
The expected action was reported by The Blood-Horse Oct. 10.
Board member Charles Diamond said the new rules will improve safety at the tracks but also send a signal to bettors that New York is serious about improving racing.
The first round of regulations approved at the Oct. 11 NYSRWB meeting were emergency rules that will go into effect for all Thoroughbred tracks–Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack–in the state. Other ideas proposed by the task force, such as new veterinarian reporting requirements and the hiring by the state of an equine medical director, are still being studied by the state.
The NYSRWB amended a regulation adopted earlier this year by the state voiding a claim if a horse dies on the track. The new restriction calls for a new owner to void a claim within one hour of a claiming race if a horse has to be vanned off the track.
Another new regulation requires that a claimant be notified, within 48 hours after a claim is finalized, of any intra-articular corticosteroid administrations to the horse within 30 days of the race. The claiming-related rules will take effect Oct. 19.
A number of rules for medication were also adopted. They will take effect Dec. 12.
Those rules include requiring trainers to maintain accurate records of all corticosteroid joint injections to horses and a further requirement that records of any such injection be turned over to the NYSRWB within 48 hours of a treatment. The records must be accessible to veterinarians to help with pre-race screenings, the rule states.
Other rules adopted include banning the intra-articular administration of methylprednisolone within 15 days of the date of a race, as well as the administration of all other intra-articular corticosteroids within seven days of the date of a race. Also, systemic corticosteroids will be banned within five days of a race date, and the bronchodilator clenbuterol will be prohibited within 21 days of a race.
The task force, whose members included Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey and Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association chairman Alan Foreman, called for a number of steps to be taken by both the state and NYRA.
"They're helping us do our job better," Sabini said.
Sabini said he hopes the rules adopted Oct. 11 and new ones being reviewed for the future "will serve as a model" for other states. He said regulators have been considering a number of new rules to make racing safer, but that the task force's work "helped us drag them across the finish line."
The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association said it fully supports the new rules and will work with New York regulators before the majority of the regulations are enacted to ensure they are "smoothly implemented and have the intended effect."
"These measures mirror those proposed by NYTHA in a five-point plan unveiled back in April, and it is encouraging to see The Jockey Club following NYTHA's lead," said NYTHA President Rick Violette Jr.