NTRA Prepares Expanded Code for Alliance

The NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance is preparing to expand its code of standards.

An expanded code of standards for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance should be ready for review and a vote by the NTRA board of directors in March 2010, alliance executive director Mike Ziegler said Dec. 9.

Additions to the code, which is used to accredit racetracks, will deal mainly with wagering integrity and security. Ziegler said a draft was presented to the NTRA board Dec. 8, and a steering committee will meet in January to make formal recommendations.

“Some of things we are going to (put in the code of standards) are already being done,” Ziegler said, noting input was sought from the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and horseplayers. The alliance also reviewed the “Giuliani report,” which recommended, among other things, creation of an Office of Wagering Security in the wake of the Breeders’ Cup Ultra Pick 6 scandal in 2002.

Ziegler and Jockey Club executive director Dan Fick, who has been a member of inspection teams that have reviewed racetracks that applied for accreditation, gave a presentation at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing & Gaming that outlined best practices at various tracks. For the most part, the grades were good.

Two items in the code of standards are considered “mandatory” even though submitting to the accreditation process is voluntary. They are participation in the Equine Injury Database and conducting pre-race veterinary inspections of all horses.

“These aspects of the code are non-starters,” Fick said. “If you don’t do these, don’t apply because you’re not going to pass.”

The two items are believed to be the reason some racetracks haven't applied for accreditation.

Many of the accredited tracks were said to have best practices, particularly in areas covered by model rules. One area of across-the-board success is the race-day ban on anabolic steroids, which was adopted by most jurisdictions last year.

“Our chemists tell us they’re not finding even trace levels of the four anabolic steroids (covered by the model rule) anymore,” Fick said.

California tracks and Keeneland got high grades for TCO2 testing—‘’milkshake” testing—but Fick said many others did not. “It is said to be a prime area of abuse in our industry,” he said of use of alkalinizing agents in racehorses.

Fick said those that inspected tracks and submitted reports found improved communication among tracks as well as veterinarians and others involved in racing day to day. The American Association of Equine Practitioners sees the alliance as a vehicle to promote safety and welfare issues, he said.

Ziegler said the accreditation process put the spotlight on the need for improved aftercare of retired racehorses. Best practices were noted at California tracks, New York Racing Association tracks, Monmouth Park, Turfway Park, and Woodbine.

“A lot of tracks had believed retired racehorses weren’t their problem,” Ziegler said. “This process has opened their eyes.”