'Welfare and Safety' Summit Update Released

Participants in the “Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit” in October 2006 continue to work on various initiatives but probably won’t convene for a second summit until early 2008.

The Jockey Club and Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, which put the summit together, released a quarterly update on the effort March 29. Organizers said having another summit one year after the first may not offer enough time given the number of issues being addressed, so 18 months is a better goal.

An update on welfare and safety programs could be provided at The Jockey Club Round Table conference in August, and a more in-depth review offered at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing and Gaming in December, organizers said.

The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation Board and The Jockey Club stewards have jointly approved $30,000 for the support of Welfare and Safety Summit efforts in 2007.

The following updates on each committee formed last year were released:

Hoof Care and Shoeing

The committee said it’s “fair to say” its efforts played a role in the California Horse Racing Board’s decision to enforce a toe-grab rule this year. The committee, chaired by Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Bill Casner, reviewed scientific research by the University of California-Davis and received input from farriers.

Drs. Mick Peterson and Rob Gillete provided bio-mechanical graphics to support the recommendation to ban front toe grabs higher than four millimeters. The recommendation was forwarded to the Association of Racing Commissioners International for consideration to adopt as a model rule.

Casner will attend the RCI meeting in April to encourage other racing commissions to support the issue.

On-Track Injury Reporting

The topic was on the agenda at the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium’s regulatory veterinarian workshop last December. Dr. Mary Scollay, who made the presentation on the injury reporting system she employs in Florida, secured cooperation from 16 regulatory and racetrack vets to utilize the form this year.

The ultimate aim is to better understand how many injuries occur and what types are most prevalent and/or important. Use of this form by the entire industry won’t be necessary to make the data useful.

Scollay will also provide an update on the injury form at the RCI meeting in April. Considerations are under way with The Jockey Club staff and legal counsel to determine the feasibility of a data base for on-track injury reports.

Soundness and Durability

The committee, in conjunction with The Jockey Club Information Systems, produced initial lists ranking stallions by percent of foals that reach the races and by average number of lifetime starts per starter among offspring. The statistics were published in Research Today, the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation newsletter, which is tipped into The Blood-Horse and thus has more than 20,000 in circulation.

Similar statistics are being supplied free of charge on a one-time basis to the national publications and various state publications. The lists show the same statistics for horses standing in each state.

Though no subset of the American Thoroughbred that has soundness far above the average of the breed has been uncovered, the consensus of the committee is the statistics can be helpful to breeders. The input probably will be utilized more frequently in the “strata of breeding somewhat below the fashionable top,” but the problem of decreasing starts per horse is important to the entire industry.

Kimberly Brown of the University of Kentucky, along with her economics/statistics professor, Dr. David Freshwater, is working with The Jockey Club Information Systems to develop a Durability Index as her doctoral thesis. It could be completed in a year.

Education and Licensing

RCI executive vice president Paul Bowlinger surveyed all state racing commissions for copies of trainers’ exams. The committee received seven, including an educational trainer’s manual from Oregon.

A Kentucky-based trainer, Catherine McNeely, has been hired as a part- time consultant to help review the information and develop a draft for a national trainer’s test for review by the committee and possible presentation at the RCI meeting in April.

Race Conditions and Racing Office

The committee is gathering information via e-mail on auction race conditions.

Health and Medical Records

Stephanie Preston, a University of Florida veterinary medicine doctoral candidate and co-founder of the Equine Soundness Program at the school, has tentatively agreed to work with the committee on production of reports, articles, and newsletters on soundness research and statistics for horsemen. In addition as an epidemiologist, she has volunteered to work on the concept of a health and veterinary repository.

Racing Surface

Peterson is prepared to assist the committee and continues to conduct research on track surfaces. He will also make a presentation at the RCI convention.