Safety Panel to Serve as 'Bully Pulpit'

A new safety committee hopes to bring about industry change through persuasion.

The Jockey Club acknowledges it has limits on what it can mandate in the area of equine health and safety, but it does plan to use its new Thoroughbred Safety Committee as a “bully pulpit” to bring about change.

The committee was formed just days after the breakdown of the filly Eight Belles in the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Eight Belles’ death generated intense national attention that largely focused on equine safety on the racetrack.

The committee met for the first time May 14, and plans to meet again May 27 in Lexington and June 4 in New York. The committee has established a timeline for regular meetings that will focus on breeding practices, medication, racing surfaces, and the rules of Thoroughbred racing.

Committee chairman Stuart Janney III, who chairs the seven-member panel, said during a May 15 media teleconference the group plans to solicit input from many industry groups and hopes to form a consensus on key issues.

“We’re in the process of figuring out who we want to hear from on various issues,” Janney said. “There are a number of groups beyond The Jockey Club that do very important work on welfare issues. We took an expansive view of the topic. A number of issues have been raised, and we intend to address them.”

Janney reserved comments on specifics but did say it’s no longer adequate to simply point out problems and propose solutions. He said there are “relatively few” things The Jockey Club can enforce as a breed registry, so it will have to take another approach.

“We’re going to use the committee as a bully pulpit to be persuasive on certain matters,” Janney said.

Information already gleaned by two meetings of the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit figures in the committee’s efforts. Janney said there have been good recommendations; the problem is they haven’t been implemented fast enough.

The Thoroughbred Safety Committee is tentatively planning to announce its initial recommendations at The Jockey Club Round Table Conference Aug. 17 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Some may be released before that date.

Other committee members are John Barr, Jimmy Bell, Dr. Larry Bramlage, Donald Dizney, Dell Hancock, and Dr. Hiram Polk Jr. Each is a member of The Jockey Club.