Looming Thoroughbred Safety Hearing

When looking at some of the major tragedies that have taken place over the last few years, names such as Barbaro, George Washington and the latest racing fatality, Eight Belles, jump to mind. Much speculation and criticism regarding horse racing has been in the news lately. This has led the United States House Subcommittee of Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection to call a hearing to investigate and address the public and animal rights organizations’ concerns involving the sport. The Breeding, Drugs and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Horseracing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse hearing will take place on 19 June 2008.

The hearing committee will be looking at four critical sectors of the horse racing industry: the maintenance of racecourses; the track surfaces on which the horses run; breeding standards and procedures; and the use of medication and drugs on racehorses. Many witnesses have been called to the hearing to answer questions put forward by the committee, and the committee has selected people from various sectors in the horse racing community.

One of the people called to testify at the hearing is Rick Dutrow Jr., who is Big Brown’s trainer and openly supports the use of drugs on racehorses. Others to testify include The Jockey Club president Alan Marzelli; Arthur Hancock (breeder and racehorse owner); Randy Moss (ESPN analyst), trainer Jack Van Berg; and chairman to the California Horse Racing Board, Richard Shapiro. Alex Waldorp from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association will also give evidence in this hearing, as well as a couple of members from the medical fraternity, including Dr. Mary Scollay (Equine Medical Director of Kentucky) and veterinarians Dr. Sue Stover, Dr. Wayne McIlwraith and Dr. Larry Soma.

The increasing numbers of breakdowns, of which some are fatal, have raised concerns and the committee hopes to make some determinations as to the cause of these injuries during the course of their investigation. The goal and main objective of the hearing is to establish if the sport of horse racing still warrants its Special Status (Federal Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978) and to determine what procedures can be followed to increase the safety of the horses and the industry. As horse racing does not have one authority overseeing all racing in the country, the rules and regulations from one state to another do differ, and all these issues will be looked at during the Breeding, Drugs and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Horseracing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse hearing. It has been mentioned that the response to problems within the horse racing industry is slow due to a lack of a central governing body. The committee is determined to find the sources of the issues that plague the sport of horse racing, and to suggest rules and regulations that can improve the sport and the lives of racehorses.

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