Santa Anita Earns Safety Re-Accreditation
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced Feb. 14 that Santa Anita Park, site of the Breeders' Cup World Championships for the third straight year in 2014, has earned re-accreditation from the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. 

Santa Anita's re-accreditation followed a complete review of all racing operations at the facility. "The Great Race Place" was first accredited in 2009; all accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years. 

During the latest Alliance inspection of Santa Anita, best practices were identified in virtually every primary area of focus for the Alliance. 

"Between the Breeders' Cup and its two annual meets, Santa Anita is expected to host 27 grade I events in 2014, about a quarter of the grade I stakes in North America," said Mike Ziegler, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. "With so much on the line, participants and bettors need to know that our sport's most high-profile racetracks are consistently striving to protect horses, jockeys, and the public." 

In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included the reporting of injuries and fatalities, pre- and post-race veterinary exam protocols, post-mortem veterinary examinations, and the establishment of an injury review committee.

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Santa Anita included rules regarding shoes and hoof care, adherence to Association of Racing Commissioners International model rules pertaining to the use of cushioned riding crops and safety helmets, as well as equine ambulances provided. 

Other best practices noted at Santa Anita related to a safer racing environment: substance abuse intervention and counseling, racing surface maintenance and measurement protocols, required completion of the Racing Official Accreditation Program for all stewards, participation in the Track Superintendents' and Arena Managers' field day, catastrophic injury planning and procedures, infectious disease management, and practicing veterinarian availability during all racing and training.

In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included alkalinizing agent regulation and TCO2 testing procedures, exogenous anabolic steroids regulation, Shockwave therapy regulation and protocols, the California Horse Racing Board out-of-competition testing program, effective communication of medication testing regulations and protocols, frozen sample testing and Racing Medication and Testing Consortium accreditation of the track's official testing laboratory, the Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory of the Kenneth L. Maddy Laboratory at the University of California-Davis. 

Relating to security and safety protocols, best practices at Santa Anita included fixed video surveillance inside restricted holding barns; a full-time substance abuse program; training in first aid, CPR and AED; a full-time fire inspector for the stable area; use of the Homeland Security E-Verify program to conduct background checks on all job applicants; and enhanced surveillance of horses entered for graded stakes. 

Regarding aftercare and transition of retired racehorses, Santa Anita exceeded best-practice criteria through its involvement with the California Retirement Management Account, or CARMA, an independent nonprofit which receives .3% of winning owner purse earnings (matched by Santa Anita) and disburses it to farms and organizations caring for retired Thoroughbred racehorses. 

"We would like to thank the NTRA's Safety and Integrity Alliance for their stewardship on this wide-ranging list of industry concerns," said Santa Anita president George Haines. "Santa Anita has been and will continue to be at the forefront of racetrack safety, state-of-the-art race day and out-of-competition testing, and efforts to maintain the integrity of our sport at all levels. The safety and well-being of both our human and equine athletes will always be our top priority and we're proud to be a part of this ongoing mission with the NTRA."

The re-accreditation of Santa Anita was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track's completion of a 48-page written application and continued as Santa Anita hosted several meetings with Alliance officials. The on-site review included inspections of all facets of the racing facility, with special attention paid to areas that were newly added to the Alliance's Code of Standards in 2012 and 2013. Such areas containing new or more stringent requirements include the establishment of an injury review committee; starting gate removal protocols; recording and storage of racing surface data; regulatory veterinarian protocols and procedures; and post parade/starting gate scratch protocols. Interviews were also conducted with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, stewards, and fans. 

The inspection team was comprised of Chris Clark, director of enforcement and licensing for the Kentucky State Racing Commission; Jim Gates, consultant and former general manager of Churchill Downs; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant and past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators; Celeste Kunz, DVM, former chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association; and Ziegler. 

Santa Anita is one of 22 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance. 

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