Legislation may unite horseracing behind one set of standards

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The horse racing industry may be closer to saving itself by agreeing to establish a uniform set of nationwide standards covering everything from doping to track safety, a variety of industry and political leaders announced Monday.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will be introduced in the U.S. Senate in September by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he and others announced at a press conference at Keeneland.

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U.S. Rep Andy Barr, R-Ky., will introduce the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The legislation will help set national standards to promote fairness, increase safety, and help preserve thoroughbred racing.

Currently, the industry operates under 38 different governing bodies  and sets of rules across the country.

The industry increasingly has come under fire after scandals involving doping and an increasing number of horse deaths at tracks. Also, 37 trainers and veterinarians were indicted earlier this year.

The industry is important in Kentucky, supporting as many as 60,000 direct and indirect jobs, Barr said.

Because of Kentucky’s leading role in the sport and Lexington being the Horseracing Capital of the World, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club, and other industry leaders got together earlier this year to develop a solution to the challenges facing horseracing. A number of them joined McConnell and Barr for Monday’s announcement, including Keeneland President & CEO Bill Thomason, Keeneland President & CEO-Elect Shannon Arvin, Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO William “Bill” C. Carstanjen, Breeders’ Cup President & CEO Drew Fleming, and The Jockey Club Vice Chairman William “Bill” M. Lear Jr.

“I’m proud to be joined by prominent horseracing leaders in Kentucky as they take the courageous step to increase nationwide safety standards for horses, jockeys, trainers, breeders, and fans. I’m grateful to Congressman Andy Barr for his strong leadership on this important issue,” said McConnell.

Also announced today was the launch of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which will be an independent, non-governmental regulatory body responsible for improving current regulations bringing a new level of transparency.

This authority will also address medication use, track conditions and other safety standards to protect equine athletes. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will provide federal recognition and enforcement power for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to develop uniform, baseline standards for horseracing.

“Kentucky is proud of our distinct horseracing traditions. We must address the challenges the sport faces so we can preserve our heritage and the jobs of over 24,000 Kentuckians who support it,” said McConnell. “As Senate Majority Leader, I look forward to working with Congressman Barr and our colleagues across the aisle on our legislation to give federal recognition to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. Together, we can better protect every competitor and give each of them a fair shot at the Winner’s Circle.”

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work and negotiation to develop uniform racing standards under one independent regulatory body. The future of the sport depends on fair competition, a level playing field across state lines, as well as the safety and welfare of our equine and human athletes,” Barr added.

“Now is the time for the horseracing industry to embrace change that will attract a new generation of fans and solidify the future of this special sport. I want to thank Leader McConnell for his partnership on this effort and I look forward to moving this legislation across the finish line,” Barr added

“This groundbreaking legislation and the collaborative effort behind it speaks to the commitment those of us in the Thoroughbred industry have to establish uniform safety and integrity standards across the U.S. and bring American racing in line with international guidelines,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “We applaud the leadership of Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr, who share our passion for horse racing and a dedication to strengthening the future of this great sport.”

Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO William “Bill” C. Carstanjen noted, “It is critical to the future of Thoroughbred racing that the safety and integrity of our sport be governed by world-class, uniform standards across the United States. The leadership of Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr has been instrumental in our shared goal of bringing the Thoroughbred industry together to achieve this goal.”

“This legislation gives us an opportunity to make the single most significant and far-reaching safety and integrity enhancement in the history of Thoroughbred racing by bringing our sport into the 21st century and protecting its future for generations to come,” echoed Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited. “While there is more work to do both in Congress and in the racing community, we are now on the path to a safer and more transparent sport thanks to Senator McConnell’s leadership and ability to bring people together around this important non-partisan issue. It has been a privilege to work with Congressman Andy Barr, my Chairman Fred Hertrich and my trusted counterparts at Churchill Downs and The Jockey Club, among many others, to contribute to this initiative for the betterment of our industry.”

“The Jockey Club has long pursued a collaborative solution within our industry to establish national reforms ensuring clean competition and improved safety for horses and humans alike. We express our sincere thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and organizations such as Breeders’ Cup, Churchill Downs Inc., Keeneland, New York Racing Association, and The Stronach Group for working so closely with us on this legislation,” statedStuart S. Janney III, Chairman, The Jockey Club. “We strongly believe that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is vital to developing uniform and effective medication and safety regulations that will enhance the integrity and safety of American horse racing and improve the sport.”

The Jockey Club Chairman continued, “We also applaud Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY) and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) for their support and devotion to horse racing and for introducing the original bill into the House and Senate. We will continue to work closely with Congressional co-sponsors, industry stakeholders and animal welfare organizations in our pursuit of national, uniform standards for drugs, medication, and safety in horse racing.”

“Without federal legislation mandating that USADA enact ‘clean’ drug rules, reliable testing, qualified labs and strict penalties for violators, the sport of American horse racing faces an uncertain future,”said Staci Hancock, Managing Member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance.  “With Senator McConnell’s leadership and the continued efforts of Representatives Andy Barr and Paul Tonko in the House, WHOA’s members look forward to the day when our great sport can rebuild its reputation, protect our beloved horses and their jockeys, and reclaim racing’s place as one of America’s top spectator sports.”

Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Senate Majority Leader McConnell has stepped up to end widespread doping in American horseracing and to address racetrack safety, the key contributing factors to fatalities on American racetracks. We cannot continue to look the other way when a racehorse is severely injured or killed during training or a race. This measure will advance necessary reforms that will make or break horseracing in the United States.”

“The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will bring 16 hands of integrity back to American horseracing by banning race-day doping,” said Marty Irby, a lifelong horseman and executive director at Animal Wellness Action.  “U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others are right to press the industry to create a uniform anti-doping standard that will protect the horses and the sport against the worst impulses of some of its actors.”