NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop

NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop

Anne M. Eberhardt

NTRA Chief Calls for Penn Safety Improvements

A breakdown during training hours has come under scrutiny at Pennsylvania track.

The president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Sept. 24 credited a Pennsylvania racetrack with initiating pre-race soundness exams but said it’s not enough.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course is under scrutiny because a filly stabled there badly broke down during morning training hours and no veterinarian was available to euthanize her for almost an hour. There is no requirement, however, to have a vet present during training hours.

“We learned (Sept. 23) that Penn National will begin conducting pre-race soundness inspections next month,” NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop said. “While any step leading to greater safety and integrity is praiseworthy, it is clear in Penn National’s case that much more can and should be done to protect the welfare of its human and equine athletes.”

Penn National recently announced it will begin pre-race soundness exams Oct. 4.

“Trainers or their representatives shall make themselves available for the racing soundness inspection,” Penn National states on its overnight sheet. “Failure to comply may result in the horse being scratched and disciplinary action taken.”

Pre-race exams aren’t required at all racetracks or in all racing states. They are required, however, under the code of standards of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, which has accredited about 20 racetracks thus far.

“A key component of the solution is accreditation by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance—which requires pre-race veterinary inspections, veterinarians on call during training hours, and a host of other best practices, including TCO2 testing and the presence of a quality medical care program for human athletes,” Waldrop said. “All tracks that care about the safety and integrity of racing need to follow the lead of those tracks that already have received accreditation and avail themselves of the same rigorous process. This needs to occur before—not after—the next unacceptable incident takes place.”

No Pennsylvania track has applied for accreditation under the alliance. Industry sources said the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has suggested the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission mandate accreditation by tracks.