Welfare and Safety Summit Approaching

Ed Bowen offered a preview of a March 17-18 summit on racehorse health and welfare.

The second Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, slated for March 17-18 at Keeneland, will be a time of learning new approaches to solving industry issues, as well as continuing the discussion of progress on topics brought up at the first meeting in October 2006.

At the March 17 morning session from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m EDT, there will be reports from various committees from the first summit. The Monday morning session is open to the public, officials said.

One of the featured reports by Dr. Mary Scollay will include an update on the progress of her on-track injury reporting system. Other committees will cover such topics as shoeing and hoof care; education and licensing; race conditions; racing surfaces; and durability of the horse. Researchers Dr. Wayne McIlwraith and Dr. Sue Stover will also give an in-depth analysis of racing surfaces and soft tissue injuries.

Following those reports, Richard Shapiro, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, will conduct a panel with those involved in racetrack-surface management.

Though medication issues are not under the banner of the summit, Ed Bowen, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, said there would be reports from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Equine Drug Research Institute. Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, will report on the Sales Integrity Task Force.

“I’m really excited about the quality of people we’re going to have not only to make public presentations, but then to work behind closed doors on crafting the next steps and agendas for the ongoing summit,” Bowen said during a March 11 NTRA teleconference.

Though the March 18 session will be closed to the public, a press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. to reveal what the 60 participants discussed within their committees.

“I think the reason to have a second (summit) is to make sure we don’t lose momentum,” Bowen said. “In this industry, many of the things we talk about rely ultimately on being adopted by racing commissions. I think it’s very important to continue to explain and convince commissions that these recommendations are worthy of being implemented.

“We also want to leave it open to ideas that have come forward since the last summit. Obviously, the whole issue of synthetic surfaces of racetracks has changed dramatically since October 2006. So we’re not looking at this with tunnel vision, trying to plug along only on the same topics we came up with before, but to let other ideas be brought forward.”

Bowen said he is anticipating a positive response from the on-track Injury reporting system presentation.
Scollay, who has developed a simple form to record incidents, is working with The Jockey Club to create database security for the system. Bowen said 60 racetracks are either already participating in the project or have agreed to do so in the future.

With more than 2,000 injury reports since the system was implemented, Bowen said the results could now be turned over to epidemiologists to analyze.

“The exciting thing is threefold: We’ll get a grip on how many injuries and what types there are, and we’ll be able to turn it over to an epidemiologist who can look at it and see if we can discern patterns of risk factors and help trainers protect their horses better,” he said.

Bowen explained how synthetic-surface committee members will discuss what they’ve learned and how they’re handling the problems that have come up at the summit. He said The Jockey Club Research Foundation is supporting a $43,000 project that will be initiated by track analysts McIlwraith and Mick Peterson.

“One thing that really concerns me and links with one of the ambitions of the summit is to try to encourage some sort of requirement of continuing education for licensees who are handling the horses (running on synthetic surfaces),” Bowen said. “It will be a learning curve. Because of different climates and different sources of material (in synthetic surfaces), I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to say, ‘This is the product.’  It’s complicated.”