The starting gates at Santa Anita Park. California's horseracing welfare reform. Santa Anita Park reforms.

Complete support within racing for Santa Anita Park reforms

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Santa Anita Park reforms: The Stronach Group has received complete support for the welfare and safety reforms from a large number of horseracing governing bodies, including the Breeders’ Cup, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) and other industry leaders.

Statement from Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA).

The IFHA, composed of racing authorities and race organizers from all major racing jurisdictions across more than 50 countries, has as its core missions to protect the safety of horses and riders and to ensure the integrity of our sport. An unwavering anti-doping policy in both training and during competition is of the utmost importance to safeguarding the welfare of racehorses and the fairness of racing.

I am in complete support of the actions and decisions made by The Stronach Group to bring its medication policies in line with international standards, notably those outlined in Article 6 of the IFHA’s International Agreement on Breeding, Racing, and Wagering (IABRW). Article 6 of the IABRW, drafted with input by racing regulators, veterinarians, chemists, and administrators from around the world, has served as the basis for medication regulation, enforcement, and testing for racing authorities such as the British Horseracing Authority, France Galop, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Japan Racing Association, Racing Australia among others.

I am calling on other jurisdictions and race organizers in the United States to adopt stringent medication principles in accord with Article 6 of the IABRW. This adoption, in addition to the implementation of the guidelines outlined in the recently introduced Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019, will apply internationally accepted measures that protect horses, jockeys, and all stakeholders of our great sport.

About IFHA:

The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) is the world peak body for the international sport of Thoroughbred racing. Its members are the national racing authorities across the globe which stage Thoroughbred races. Major areas of the IFHA’s activities include:

  • Making and amending the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering (the IABRW)
  • Policy development relating to welfare and safety of horses and riders
  • International Race Planning and Grading (“black type”)
  • World Rankings
  • Equine Prohibited Substances and Practices
  • Harmonization of Race Day Rules
  • Certification of IFHA Reference Labs
  • Fostering commercial development of the racing industry globally
  • The IFHA is a foundation member with Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) of the International Horse Sports Confederation and is affiliated to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Statement from Breeders’ Cup Limited

Like all of racing we are profoundly saddened by the loss of a life at any racetrack and we are heartbroken for those whose livelihoods are dedicated to the care of our horses. As an organization, the Breeders’ Cup stands for the highest levels of safety and integrity. We support the effort by The Stronach Group to propose important changes and we commit to working with the racing industry in California and elsewhere to achieve meaningful reform on a national basis.

We recognize that for real change to result from this difficult situation, we must engage those stakeholders quickly and dedicate time and other resources. We must, as an industry, press forward on implementing existing best practices and rapidly proceed with the consideration of further reforms such as those proposed by The Stronach Group in California. It is vital that we all do so.

A letter to The Stronach Group From: Hall of Fame Jockey Jerry Bailey,

March 22, 2019,

By way of introduction, my name is Jerry Bailey. I was a thoroughbred jockey for thirty-one (31) years, am a member of the racing Hall of Fame, and since my retirement from active riding in 2006 have been a television racing analyst for ESPN and currently for NBC sports.
I have watched the events unfold at Santa Anita this spring with much interest and dismay, and after a couple of recent conversations with The Stronach Group president and COO Tim Ritvo, I was asked to offer my opinion on the new “riding crop rules” that are being initiated by TSG. While I will address the new “riding crop rules” later, I would first like to explain my background and experience relevant to the equine injury/fatality problem at Santa Anita race track recently.

In 2012, I was part of a four-member investigative task force appointed by NYRA at the request of New York Governor Cuomo, which included Dr. Mary Scollay, Dr. Scott Palmer and attorney Alan Foreman. This task force was formed to conduct an investigation to determine the cause of 21 equine racing fatalities due to catastrophic injuries at Aqueduct Race Track in 2011-2012, occurring in a very condensed amount of time and under circumstances not dissimilar to the current Santa Anita situation. We conducted an exhaustive investigation over a five-month period, which included over 75 individual interviews, and issued a lengthy report that was highly praised both inside and outside the racing industry.

We reviewed and investigated many possible causes, and concluded (generally speaking) that while there was not a single factor, many factors contributed to the situation, including “at risk” horses being run. We were also mandated to recommend reforms that would reduce the likelihood that the situation at Aqueduct would not be repeated, and recommended more than 48 such reforms. These reforms were immediately adopted in New York and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and in many jurisdictions throughout the country.

Many, but not all of the changes TSG have announced, are consistent with the reforms our task force recommended seven (7) years ago. The success of our reforms is evident in the fact that, while our goal should be zero fatalities, the catastrophic injury rate in New York of 1.29 per 1000 in 2018 was their lowest in decades and is well below the national average. Further, the catastrophic injury rate in the Mid-Atlantic region has declined 29% since the implementation of our reforms in 2013.

One of the new reforms proposed by TSG is limiting the use of the riding crop solely for “corrective safety measures”. It is important to note that the task force did not find the use of the riding crop to have any association whatsoever with the fatalities at Aqueduct. I firmly believe that the use of the riding crop had absolutely nothing to do with the equine catastrophic injury problem at Santa Anita. I do not believe that limiting the use of the riding crop, as proposed, and will do anything to prevent such occurrences in the future. Nevertheless, I do feel that the time has likely come to accept such changes. The optics to the general viewing public of jockeys violently striking their mounts is surely not what our sport wants to promote, and the time has likely come to change that.

So as not to sound hypocritical, I will be the first to admit that during my career I overused the whip on many occasions and would likely have been against these changes if I were still an active rider, but viewing the sport from a different seat and with the understanding that our culture has changed dramatically during the last thirteen (13) years, I see this differently now. I will concede the point that some horses will not put forth their best effort without being forced to, but I also believe racing without the use of the whip will still be competitive, and the race times will be very similar to what they are under current conditions. I believe the benefit to the public perception of our sport will outweigh the concerns a jockey would have when riding under the new proposed constraints.

Having ridden over 31,000 races, I don’t recall needing the whip to “control my mount for safety reasons” more than a few times. I certainly believe it was less than one percent (1%) of the time. I wouldn’t totally disagree if jockeys wanted to keep the whip for safety reasons, but the reins are the best tool for control. Also keep in mind that some jockeys could be tempted to go beyond that in order to win, so there is also the additional option of taking away the whip entirely. As I stated, times have changed.

Jerry Bailey


Ted Bassett, President of Keeneland Racing Association (1970-86) and Chairman of the Board (1986-2001) President Breeders’ Cup Ltd. (1988-96):

“Santa Anita has taken a courageous step and I hope it is the impetus for others to follow.”

Barry Schwartz, Co-founder & Chairman Calvin Klein, Chairman of the Board of the New York Racing Association (2000-04):

“This could be a defining moment for racing. Long overdue, congratulations to Belinda Stronach. A much overdue fearless move!”

Bill Casner, Co-founder Excel Communications, Co-founder & Co-owner, WinStar Farm (2000-2010) Member of The Jockey Club:

“I applaud the Stronach Group’s proactive decision to ban race day medications. It is a quantum leap in doing what is right for our horses and the future of our industry.”

Barry Irwin Partnerships have won most prestigious races in the world, including Kentucky Derby, Dubai World Cup and Breeders’ Cup races. 2014 Equine Savior Award recipient by Equine Advocates for industry leadership and staunch stance on banning drugs in the sport of horse racing:

“Belinda Stronach is to be commended for taking a definitive leadership role in protecting our most valuable asset, the Thoroughbred racehorse, by boldly announcing a plan to eliminate drugs in racing. Brava!”

“It is 51 years since Dancer’s Image was disqualified from his 1968 Kentucky Derby win because traces of bute were found in his post-race analysis, which literally let the genie out of the bottle. As someone who has covered international racing and breeding for 45 of those years, I totally support the efforts of The Stronach Group, WHOA, Reps. Barr and Tonko and others to restore American racing to the international IFHA standards prohibiting race-day medication.”

Neil Drysdale, Hall of Fame trainer (inducted 2000):

“I am quite adamant about America having no drug, no abusive practices racing. We can be better.”

Chris McCarron, Hall of Farm jockey (inducted 1989), Founder of North American Riding Academy, offering the only college degree program for jockeys:

“I applaud the Stronach Group and Santa Anita Park for taking such a strong stance against race-day medication, includingLasix. I hope more tracks around the country follow suit for the good of the game.”

Nick Zito, Hall of Fame trainer, two-time Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, two-time Belmont Stakes and two-time Breeders’ Cup winning trainer:

“I’ve been a fan of Belinda Stronach for a while now. It takes guts to do what she and the Stronach Group did. A lot of times, things are not popular, but I believe with her statement the health and the wealth of the horses will always come first. I hope while doing this, the thought process will be taken very seriously. I thank her for her courage.”

Michael Dickinson, Champion Thoroughbred Racehorse trainer in the UK and United States, President and creator of Tapeta Footings Inc:

“We all support Horseracing Integrity Act and the Stronach Group’s plan 100%. It is the only way forward. This is only the first step and we all need to change.”

Craig Bandoroff, Owner of Denali Stud, Paris KY. Board of Directors: Kentucky Thoroughbred Association & Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, Inc:

“I applaud TSG for their seismic move. We live in different times. The public has expectations our industry needs to meet. Let’s work together as stakeholders and meet them.”

Kenny McPeek, Champion Trainer and Owner of Magdalena Farm, Board of Directors: University of Kentucky Agricultural Equine Program & Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association:

“Sometimes change is hard, but I’m hopeful that the decisions made by The Stronach Group are embraced by other horsemen. I continue to believe we need race day medications removed from all Graded Stakes in North American racing. This is a first step toward international standards and I support such a move.”

Antony Beck, President Gainesway Farms, one of the leading Thoroughbred breeding farms in Kentucky:

“Absolutely amazing!”

Graham Motion, Kentucky Derby and two-time Breeders’ Cup winning trainer:

“While this will not put an end to the immediate problems facing Santa Anita, I commend The Stronach Group for taking a stand against medication. There is a mood for change in our industry.”

Arthur Hancock, Owner of Stone Farm in Paris, KY, family founded Claiborne Farm, Member of the Jockey Club:

“I applaud The Stronach group for taking this first crucial step for the preservation of our sport.”

Gary Stevens, Hall of Fame jockey, retired:

“I’m in favor of the international rules,” Stevens said. “I always have been. When I was president of the jockeys’ guild we were for zero medication way back when. I think the way they’re going about it is the proper way to go about it now with the agreement that looks like it’s going to be in place if it’s approved by the CHRB.

“If they start with the 2-year-olds (next year), then so be it. I think any step is a forward step. I’m not a vet. I don’t claim to be a vet, but racing overseas … I know that horses can perform at their top levels without Lasix. The time has come that we do have to go with the international rules.”

Candace Coder-Chew, President, California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), A non-profit organization that provides funding for the retirement of California-raced Thoroughbred horses:

“These initiatives are a monumental stand on behalf of the safety and welfare of horses. It was a bold step, but these times require bold action. Horses will continue to benefit from this long after they leave the racetrack.”

Additional reading:

Belinda Stronach, on return to racing at Santa Anita: All eyes are going to be on us.

California leading the way with whip reforms in racing

California’s horseracing welfare reform: The details

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