Alliance Report on Way; Standards to Expand

A monitor's report on the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance is due this year.

The independent monitor for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance will conduct a “systematic and formal data-gathering phase” in the next few months and release a “detailed, comprehensive report” by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the alliance, which accredits racetracks, is developing standards for wagering security and tote protocol that will be included in the 2010 code.

Tommy Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin and secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services hired to oversee the alliance racetrack accreditation process, said in a Sept. 24 letter to NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop the review will include a public comment period. The final report will be made public, he said.

Thus far, 12 tracks in the U.S. have been accredited, 11 fully and one provisionally.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to provide an independent examination of the alliance and to report to the public at large whether, in fact, progress is being made,” said Thompson, a partner in the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld law firm. “My partners and I take our responsibility to the public and to racing fans very seriously. We fully understand that many are relying on us to assure them of the genuineness and effectiveness of industry efforts to implement safety and integrity reforms.”

Thompson’s review will include a formal questionnaire to racetracks that have undergone the accreditation process; one-on-one interviews with key industry stakeholder groups; online solicitation of public comment about the alliance; and a thorough examination of the racetrack accreditation process, including a review of all alliance applications, inspection team make-up, inspection team reports, and actions taken on the basis of those reports.

The initial code of standards deals with injury reporting and prevention; having a safer racing environment; equine medication and drug-testing procedures; jockey health and safety; and aftercare programs for retired racehorses.

During a recent NTRA meeting, some board members argued for wagering integrity standards to be developed and made part of the code as soon as possible. Alliance executive director Mike Ziegler said the plan is in motion.

“We are in fact planning to develop standards and include them in next year’s code,” Ziegler said. “We’ll be reeling in (feedback) from experts on what things we need to implement.”

Ziegler said the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau would be involved in the process. The full NTRA board of directors could vote on the policy in February 2010, he said.

“The racetrack accreditation process is a two-year deal, so tracks accredited in 2009 wouldn’t be required to adopt the new code,” Ziegler said. “However, each track representative (present at the recent meeting) said they would adopt the new standards retroactively.”

Racetrack representatives from Hollywood Park, Keeneland, and Turfway Park were among those in attendance, Ziegler said. All three tracks were fully accredited this year.