protect racehorses

On March 28 The Jockey Club released a white paper calling for comprehensive U.S. horse racing industry reform, including an overhaul of drug use and uniform out-of-competition drug testing, citing the need for “transparency into the medical treatment, injuries, and health of all racehorses.”

The paper’s release follows the deaths of 22 racehorses at California’s Santa Anita Park in less than three months. The Jockey Club wrote that “it would be a mistake to view the Santa Anita fatalities as an isolated situation—spikes in the deaths of horses have occurred at other tracks and they will continue to occur without significant reforms.”

On equine drug use, The Jockey Club said “improper drug use can directly lead to horse injuries and deaths. Horses aren’t human and the only way they can tell us if something is wrong is by reacting to a symptom. If that symptom is masked, the results can be devastating. … We lag behind cheaters and abusers and by the time we have caught up they have moved on to the next designer substance.”

The Jockey Club said it supports federal legislation, citing the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019, HR 1754, which would create a private, independent, horse racing anti-doping authority responsible for developing and administering a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program. The program would be administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the body responsible for administering anti-doping programs for human athletes including the U.S. Olympic teams.

“For far too long, cheaters have been abusing the system and the horses are most often the ones to suffer,” said James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. “It is particularly disturbing that there is little out-of-competition drug testing in the United States. U.S. horse racing lags far behind international standards. It’s time we joined the rest of the world in putting in place the best measures to protect the health and safety of our equine athletes.”

In addition to reforming how drugs are used and monitored, The Jockey Club is calling for other reforms targeted at health of equine athletes, including:

  • Enhanced race surface analysis;
  • Reporting of all injuries during racing and training;
  • More comprehensive pre-race veterinarian examinations;
  • Use of approved medications only;
  • Confirmed fitness to train; and
  • Industrywide contributions to aftercare.

The Jockey Club is the breed registry for Thoroughbreds in North America. Since its founding 125 years ago, it has been dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, focusing on improvements to the integrity, health, and safety of the sport. The Jockey Club said it has long held that horses must only race when they are free from the effects of medication.

Download the report, Vision 2025—To Prosper, Horse Racing Needs Comprehensive Reform, from The Jockey Club website.