Fatalities, drugs, biggest issues for racing, poll finds

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Horse fatalities are the single most important factor facing the US thoroughbred racing industry, a poll has found, with respondents saying they would view the industry much more favorably if national regulations and strict anti-doping rules were implemented.

Nearly seven in 10 likely voters (69 percent) said that fatalities were a “very important” issue in the national and Kentucky-based poll commissioned by The Jockey Club in the US.

The misuse of drugs was almost equally significant with 65 percent saying it was “very important.” Integrity and corruption also scored highly at 63 percent.

“This survey is further proof that the horse racing industry has reached a tipping point,” said Jim Gagliano, The Jockey Club president and COO. “The health of horses is of concern to both horse racing fans and the general public, and it’s time we make some real changes.”

Interestingly, these issues matter to people almost evenly across party lines and among Americans of all races and ethnicities. However, nationally, women are especially likely to view equine fatalities (77 percent), drugs (76 percent), and integrity (69 percent) as “very important” issues for the industry to address.

The poll also looked at the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA) of 2019, which would establish a private, independent horse racing anti-doping authority involving the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA); require full transparency into the medical treatment, injuries, and health of all racehorses; and create one, universal system of medication regulation.

An astounding 91 percent of respondents said they would view horse racing “much more” or “somewhat more” favorably if the industry adopted the national regulations and strict anti-doping rules embodied in the HIA.

Other key findings in the poll include:

Kentucky

  • Kentucky voters are three times as likely to say horse injuries have become more common (47 percent) than less common (15 percent) in recent years, which is no surprise given that US horse racing lags far behind international standards to combat doping, creating horse injury rates that are 2.5 to 5 times greater than the rest of the world.
  • 90 percent of Kentucky likely voters said they would be “much more” or “somewhat more” favorable to horse racing if Congress were to pass the HIA.
  • 78 percent of Kentucky likely voters said that it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to reform the horse racing industry in order to improve the image of the sport.
  • 95 percent of Kentucky likely voters said they would be “much more” or “somewhat more” favorable to horse racing if the U.S. adopted international standards, which are proved to reduce equine fatalities and injuries.

Nationwide

  • 95 percent of likely voters said they would be “much more” or “somewhat more” favorable to horse racing if an independent group, such as USADA (which regulates Olympic athletes), created and enforced medication rules at least as stringent as for other professional sports.
  • 93 percent of likely voters said they would be “much more” or “somewhat more” favorable to horse racing if all Thoroughbred racehorses were subject to random drug testing at any time prior to or after a race to test for prohibited substances.
  • 93 percent of likely voters said they would be “much more” or “somewhat more” favorable to horse racing if the US adopted international standards, which are proved to reduce equine fatalities and injuries.
  • 94 percent of likely voters said they would be “much more” or “somewhat more” favorable to horse racing if there were national medication rules and penalties. Currently, 38 separate state jurisdictions regulate the horse racing industry.

“With industry leaders banding together showing support for passage of HIA, we will be easing concerns of Americans who feel we are not doing enough to protect the health of racehorses,” Gagliano said.

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