State officials announced the stables participating in Aqueduct's Wood Memorial Grade 1 Stakes race next week will face markedly increased scrutiny by regulators, following a scathing report into thoroughbred abuse by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Officials with the state Gaming Commission and New York Racing Association said horses competing for the $1 million purse will be subject to out-of-competition blood testing for banned substances, be required to be on grounds three days before the race and be subject to around-the-clock monitoring at their trainers’ barns. The commission is also requiring trainers to submit veterinary records three days advance of the Wood Memorial and indicated they will be published on the agency's website before the race on April 5.
"The major New York prep race for the Kentucky Derby will be run with the utmost integrity and focus on equine health and safety,” said Robert Williams, the commission's acting executive director in a statement released today. “These enhanced security measures are an extra step of protection for all parties in racing to ensure a level and safe playing field.”
The increased security measures come less than a week after the commission announced an investigation into allegations of abuse and mistreatment of racehorses by renowned trainer Steve Asmussen, one of the nation's top trainers. The probe was touched off after PETA released video footage secretly recorded by one of Asmussen's staff working for the activist group.
Filmed last year at the Saratoga Race Course and Churchill Downs in Kentucky, the footage appears to show drugs being administered to thoroughbreds for non-medical reasons. Scott Blasi, an assistant trainer for Asmussen, is featured prominently in the video discussing some of the techniques used on Asmussen's horses and elsewhere in the industry.
For the Wood Memorial, the commission is sending out-of-competition blood samples of horses entering the race to the state Equine Drug Testing Program at the SUNY Morrisville campus. Horses participating in the race are being required to be present at Aqueduct by noon on April 2 and will stay at their trainers' barns on the grounds.
Security personnel will be expected to monitor all treatments performed by veterinarians and all medication containers from drugs administered to horses will be retained for possible testing. In addition, the commission is requiring a full daily veterinarian’s record medications and treatments given to horses from noon on April 2 until the race.
NYRA's added security at Aqueduct will maintain entry and exit logs. The agency is also requiring anyone entering a horse's stall to have a valid commission license on their person.
“These measures will ensure that the Wood Memorial is conducted in the safest and most transparent manner,” said Chris Kay, CEO and President of NYRA.