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23 Apr 2019

America to Bring Standards Inline with Rest of World

Horse racing has received some pretty bad press lately, and there is a growing concern among animal rights activists that the sport is cruel. The Santa Anita racecourse in California has been caught up in a long and stressful battle as over 20 horses have died at the track this year. looks at the situation and what steps the American side of the industry is taking to improve standards. 

Here in the UK, along with the rest of Europe, Australia and Hong Kong, there are some very specific rules governing the use of medication on race days. This has decreased the number of fatalities at the track right across the board, and therefore the evidence suggests it is a valuable move. At the moment the same rulings do not apply to American horse racing, and pressure is mounting to get things changed quickly. 

Three tracks play host to the Triple Crown races, and they have created a coalition over the last few weeks with the sole intention of ensuring that there is a ban on the medication being given on race day for the 2-year-old races. Sadly this ban will not come into effect until next, and will then be followed in 2021 by an extension of the ban to cover stakes races, which are the highest level of racing in the sport. 

It has not been proven that medication was a contributory factor at the ill-fated Santa Anita track, but despite closing for a month and having specialist teams in to assess the track no cause could be found to explain why 23 horses have been put to sleep following life-ending injuries on the track. So, the sport needs to be seen to be doing something proactive, or the public support is likely to drop even further which could prove devastating. 

The Kentucky Derby is looming so finding favour with potential racegoers is of utmost importance. However, as yet the ban is far from being a foregone conclusion as regulators from New York, Kentucky, Maryland and some of the other states with racetracks in the coalition will need to approve the plans. It is thought to be an unpopular move among trainers and owners, so there is bound to be a high level of opposition, and it is too early to say if it will get through. In 2011 a similar ruling was made by the Breeders’ Cup and American Graded Stakes Committee, and although this did pass and become a new rule, such was the pressure from trainers and owners that it was pulled just two years later to end the constant pressure and arguing it created. Given that the majority of the horse racing community has already banned race-day medication and demonstrated a lower death rate among horses it would seem only right and proper that America follows suit but only time will tell if they do indeed make the ruling and more importantly stick to it.