Saratoga County

Track accredited as safe place for horses, humans

Saratoga Race Course has been accredited by an independent alliance dedicated to making racetracks s

Saratoga Race Course has been accredited by an independent alliance dedicated to making racetracks safer for horses and humans.

Created in the wake of Eight Belles’ gut-wrenching fatal breakdown after her second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby last year, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance aims to standardize safety codes for race tracks nationwide.

The star filly was euthanized after fracturing her cannon and sesamoid bones in both front legs, two years after fan favorite Barbaro suffered the same type of break in one of his legs in the Preakness Stakes.

“[The two fatalities] made everyone in the industry collectively realize that making every attempt on behalf of the humans and the equines in the sport was no longer something that could be pushed off to next week or next month. It had to be done right now,” said Eric Wing, spokesman for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance was formed in October, and 55 of the about 100 thoroughbred tracks in the nation belong. It doesn’t regulate horse racing, which is up to each state.

The accreditation process is detailed, and member tracks get a copy of the requirements they have to meet to be accredited. They request an inspection when they’re ready, Wing said.

“Much like a law student who is not going to take the bar exam until he feels that he’s prepared, tracks read the code, get themselves up to the satisfactory levels … and then they apply for inspection.

“These aren’t surprise visits or anything like that.”

The process includes a 48-page application and interviews with track executives, employees, jockeys, owners, trainers, stewards and even fans.

None of the nine inspected racetracks have been rejected. Eight were given full accreditation, and Pimlico in Maryland was given provisional accreditation because state laws need to be changed in order for the track to comply with all of the alliance’s codes.

NTRA officials visited Saratoga Race Course Aug. 5-7 to inspect the facility.

“It exceeded prescribed benchmarks on many fronts, with industry-wide best practices established in the areas of security planning, aftercare and transitioning of retired racehorses and the recording of post-race jockey weights,” said Mike Ziegler, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance and one of the three officials who inspected the local track.

Veterinarian Dr. Ronald Jensen and racing industry executive Dan Fick also inspected the facility.

“We’re very proud of Saratoga Race Course,” said Dan Silver, NYRA spokesman. “This is just a further feather in the cap to what’s already been a fantastic meet.”

Aqueduct Race Track in Queens is slated to be inspected later this year. Belmont Park has already been accredited.

The other accredited racetracks are Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Delaware Park, Hollywood Park, Monmouth Park and Arlington Park.

Alliance certification standards cover five broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; and safety research.

Equipment used by jockeys, exercise riders and backstretch workers must be inspected also and meet safety codes.

“Those inspections by all means include the barn areas and all facilities that are on the grounds of that racetrack,” Wing said.

Wagering security is eventually expected to be included in the accreditation process.

This year, three horses have died at Saratoga Race Course — one racing, one readying for a race and one during a morning workout.

Alexandros, a 4-year-old ridgling owned by Schenectady attorney Steven Kouray and his sister, Katina Sarris of Niskayuna, was euthanized on Opening Day after breaking the sesamoids in both front legs when another horse stepped on him during a race.

Three-year-old filly It’s My Day fatally fractured the base of her skull Aug. 2 after getting spooked in the paddock and flipping.

Five-year-old Finallymadeit was euthanized Aug. 4 after a workout in which he broke his left front cannon bone.

Last year saw the death of an exercise rider working out a horse on the track after he apparently suffered a medical emergency unrelated to riding.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply