NTRA Wants Urgency on Safety Matters

The NTRA said a sense of urgency is needed in dealing with equine safety issues.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association continues to coordinate equine health and safety initiatives in response to the death of the filly Eight Belles, and on May 9 called for “urgency” and an end to the “status quo.”

The NTRA board of directors, during the special meeting, reviewed current Thoroughbred industry policies and communication programs. According to a release, the board directed NTRA management to continue to coordinate and implement industry-wide communications on current initiatives and urged the industry to move expeditiously to adopt additional measures to ensure the health and safety of its equine athletes.

“We are coordinating with our member organizations on a number of ongoing safety initiatives to reach actionable findings more quickly and to ensure the broadest possible industry implementation of those findings,” NTRA president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop said in a statement. “It is clear that the status quo is not an option, and we need to bring a renewed sense of urgency to these initiatives. Our fans and industry stakeholders expect nothing less.”

The board was updated on the most recent industry initiative: formation of a Thoroughbred Safety Committee by The Jockey Club. The committee will meet for the first time May 14.

The board also discussed the work of the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Eight Belles broke both front ankles in the gallop-out after the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. She was euthanized shortly after, and results of a necropsy are pending, according to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.

The NTRA did not say whether study of health and safety issues by various committees is sufficient in dealing with a catastrophic injury in the sport’s biggest and most-watched race and the resulting negative attention, nor did it issue specific recommendations on action the industry should take.

The Eight Belles story has generated much public interest. Animal rights and welfare groups quickly called for Thoroughbred racing to enact changes; others have questioned whether the industry’s lack of a commissioner’s office hinders its ability to take charge of issues in a united fashion.

The NTRA since the Eight Belles breakdown has been working behind the scenes in the area of media relations and coordination. Though the initial firestorm of attention has subsided, a new round could come the week of May 11 in the lead-up to the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course. One animal-rights group has said it plans to demonstrate in Maryland.