Data collection on injuries to racehorses was a hot topic of last week’s Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in Lexington, Kentucky.
The two-day conference in the Keeneland sales pavilion brought together a cross-section of the thoroughbred industry, including owners, breeders, trainers, veterinarians, horsemen, jockeys, track managers, and regulators.
During the summit racehorse owner Bill Casner said the industry was still feeling the effects of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who was badly injured in the Preakness and later succumbed to laminitis. “The more information we have, the more transparency we have and the more accountability we have, the more we can reduce catastrophic injuries … we have to continue to work to reduce catastrophic injuries,” he said.
“Catastrophic injuries have a catastrophic effect on our industry.”
There was considerable discussion pertaining to transparency of veterinary records during the first session, “Making Safety a Priority in Your Racing Company.” Those attending also heard an update on the National Uniform Medication Program. Trainer Gary Contessa said: “We’ve got to become transparent with vet records for the benefit of the horse. We need transparency. If we had transparency, we’d have a lot less breakdowns.”
Dr Mary Scollay, equine medical director, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said: “We as an industry need to dispel the myth of inevitability, that a racing fatality is not just part of the game. No stakeholder benefits from the death of a horse.”
Dr Rick Arthur, equine medical director, California Horse Racing Board, said he was not convinced that horses are weaker, “but I am convinced that they are managed differently… and the trainer and his vet know more about a particular horse than a regulatory vet ever will. This is a cat and mouse game, the same as we see in human sports. We need research and development to study new drugs. We need a robust out-of-competition testing program.”
There were panel discussions and presentations on the owner/trainer/veterinarian relationship, changes in regulations of corticosteroids, the Jockey Injury Database, racetrack surfaces, continuing education for trainers, the status of the modern Thoroughbred, and bone development in racehorses.
Like the four previous summits, held in October 2006, March 2008, June 2010, and October 2012, this summit was underwritten and coordinated by The Jockey Club and Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and hosted by Keeneland Association.
James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, said the summit served as a ‘think tank’ for the industry. “This edition proved not only that initiatives generated from past summits are having a positive impact but also that there are new ideas, new information, new practices, and new technology that can be used to further enhance the welfare and safety of our athletes, and we need to share that information in a transparent manner.”
The summit was available on a live video stream. In addition to a few hundred attendees in the Keeneland sales pavilion, nearly 1800 people in more than a dozen countries watched the live video stream.
A replay is available on grayson-jockeyclub.org.