Clean and Safe Horse Racing: A Report of The Thoroughbred Safety CommitteeStuart S. Janney III - Chairman, Thoroughbred Safety Committee
Matt Iuliano - Executive Vice President & Executive Director, The Jockey Club
Ogden Mills Phipps: Thank you very much. Before we get started, I would like to remind everybody that a video replay of this morning's conference will be available on The Jockey Club's website later this afternoon and an official transcript should be there by tomorrow afternoon.
The Thoroughbred Safety Committee was created in 2008 to review every facet of equine health and to recommend actions the industry could take to improve the health and safety of the horse.
Stuart Janney and his fellow members go about their work in a steady and methodical manner, and he is here today to review their recent efforts and announce a couple of new recommendations. Stuart ...
Stuart S. Janney III: Good morning, everyone. When this committee was formed in 2008, we quickly identified two top priorities. First, focus on improving the welfare of the horse, and in that area, we elected to research and pursue recommendations that could be effected in the shortest possible period of time, the proverbial low hanging fruit. They were backed by thorough science, and they were relatively uncontroversial in nature.
A total of 13 recommendations have been issued since then, touching a variety of areas, including racing equipment, injury reporting, veterinary best practices, and medication reform. We applaud those jurisdictions which have changed regulations and racetracks that have used house rules to put the recommendations in effect.
We believe that all of those recommendations have made racing conditions safer for the horse.
Today, I'm proud to announce two more. First, in an effort to improve the safety and injury medication planning, the committee calls for all racing regulatory authorities and the Association of Racing Commissioners International to develop and implement a rule calling for a stewards' investigation and report of the circumstances associated with racing fatalities.
Second, the committee calls for all racing regulatory authorities and the RCI to develop and implement a rule to allow a claim to be voided on horses that fail to return to the designated unsaddling area due to injury.
You can read the text of each recommendation on the Thoroughbred Safety Committee section of The Jockey Club's website.
The second priority for the committee, from the outset, centered on actions and changes that would enhance the integrity, acceptability and popularity of racing.
This is not low hanging fruit. We are reaching higher and it is undoubtedly more difficult, even with all of the analytical support that we have. A thick fog of disagreement, confusion, and rhetoric envelopes critical issues like lab accreditation, medication, uniform regulation, penalties and, of course, Lasix.
The Jockey Club's oft-stated perspective on race-day medication hasn't changed and will not change. Fundamentally, we believe that horses should run only when free from the influence of medication.
From this podium one year ago, we heard representatives from McKinsey & Company tell us that there was an immediate need to reverse the growing negative perception of our sport and its rules pertaining to drugs.
One year ago, we also unveiled something called the Reformed Racing Medication Rules. We released an updated version in March and we release a new version today.
This document features a new categorization of medications, more clearly defined regulatory limits and dramatically remodeled penalties. I would encourage each of you to look over the document, and it also can be found on The Jockey Club website.
Today, Matt Iuliano of The Jockey Club is going to briefly share some insights on the cumulative points penalty system that makes the Reformed Medication Rules so very sensible, and I think appealing. Matt ...
Matt Iuliano: Thank you, Stuart. As Stuart mentioned, the rules contain sweeping reforms in the regulation of testing, medications and penalties. Testing and medication reform was developed collaboratively, drawing upon the best science and, wherever possible, the best regulations already in existence in the United States and abroad.
To develop the penalty structure, we commissioned McKinsey & Company to study the nearly 3,500 medication rule violations contained in thoroughbredrulings.com.
Rulings ranging from a thin segment of those involving egregious substances, such as dermorphin, for example, to the rapidly expanding segment involving substances that are becoming more chronically abused, such as Bute.
The penalties should address behaviors at both ends of the spectrum. With 38 different pari mutuel jurisdictions operating from 38 different rule books, quite expectedly, there was considerable variation among the states in how they treated parties finally judged to have broken the rules.
Both the frequency and severity varied widely across the states represented in the database. Among the major racing states with substantial year round racing, infractions were called anywhere from 1 to 50 times per 1,000 races.
About 20% of the time, comparable infractions resulting in a fine in one state produced only a warning in another. And among states with comparable infractions involving fines, the amounts varied by as much as 500%.
There was also considerable variation among states and their treatment of repeat violators. Now to quantify this segment: repeat violators with five or more infractions comprised approximately 1% of trainers, yet 24% of all the violations and approximately 2% of trainers had infractions in multiple states. One trainer actually logged 33 violations; nine others had 10 or more.
The conclusions drawn by McKinsey & Company are best summed up by the title of this slide: Crime Pays. In nearly 3,000 races with drug rule violations, penalties represented more of a minor inconvenience or perhaps just a cost of doing business, as opposed to a meaningful punishment or substantial deterrent to bad behavior.
Of the $15.4 million earned by horses with a drug violation, $14 million in earnings were retained after paying just $1.4 million dollars in fines. Many of those [penalties were administered] without any suspension at all.
Under the Reformed Racing Medication Rules, fines and terms of suspensions are dramatically increased, especially after the first infraction. With certain medications commonly used in the management of pain, the purse is redistributed with the first infraction. We did this to address the patterns revealed in the data. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, were among the medications most frequently the subject of multiple violations.
One in four violators of medication rules with NSAIDs will violate those rules again. And in a small segment of the population of trainers, again and again and again.
Under the Reformed Racing Medication Rules, the picture for multiple violations changes dramatically. This slide compares actual penalties on the left, and the reform racing medication rule penalties on the right for a trainer with 13 violations.
$20,000 in additional fines, $40,000 less in earnings, and 160 days more in suspensions are the result. And this trainer, who was finally judged with seven violations, some involving the more serious drugs, would have lost all earnings, paid $30,000 in fines and faced over a year in suspensions.
So studying the rulings data under the existing rules, the scale of penalties in the Reformed Racing Medication Rules was developed. Now this is not unlike the approach that we took with the regulatory thresholds and the laboratory standards in the Reformed Racing Medication Rules.
We started with the best science, and then we looked to the historical trends to identify the behaviors that should be addressed by the rules. To adjust and flex to new trends in behavior, each year the penalty structure as well as the testing and medication components of the Reformed Racing Medication Rules are subject to critical review of all the data to ensure that the regulations are meeting the expectations.
Should trends emerge in the data that necessitate adjustments to these rules, those adjustments will be made.
Stuart S. Janney III: Since we announced and published the reformed rules last year, we have spent considerable time gathering the support of our colleagues in the industry to assist us in advocating for their adoption by the states. This week we are pleased to announce two powerful allies who have pledged their endorsement and are joining us in advocating for the adoption of the reformed rules by state regulatory authorities.
With the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the American Quarter Horse Association joining with The Jockey Club, a national uniform medication rule book for all 38 pari mutuel jurisdictions in the U.S. is in sight.
The officers of the American Association of Equine Practitioners have reviewed the Reformed Racing Medication Rules. We're pleased to report they are moving forward by submitting the reformed rules to the racing committee and their board of directors. We look forward to working with them toward an endorsement.
In Washington, D.C., last month, several called to testify at the hearings echoing the same message. The current patchwork of medication rules and penalties is confusing at best and poses a substantial threat to the integrity of our sport at worst.
The time for a national medication rule book is here, and the path to uniformity begins with the Reformed Racing Medication Rules.
Hopefully, during the week leading up to this morning you saw a number of ads we've placed to spotlight the specific attributes of the Reformed Racing Medication Rules and how they can create uniformity in our existing regulatory environment.
To provide a platform for advocates of medication reform to show support, on May 10, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Owners Association and The Jockey Club launched cleanhorseracing.org. To date, over 12,000 visitors regularly stop by the site to receive the latest updates on medication reform, and nearly 3,000 emails have been generated by individuals using cleanhorseracing.org as their vehicle for communicating with regulators in Kentucky, New York, West Virginia, and many other states.
One of the most popular features on this site is the video testimony supporting race-day medication reform. Prominent individuals make their voices and their feelings known. Among them, Peter Willmott, Lincoln Collins, LeRoy Jolley, Gary Biszantz, Bill Casner, Barry Irwin, Seth Hancock and D. Wayne Lukas.
The recent announcement by TOBA that 40 owners had pledged to run their 2 year olds in 2012 without Lasix is one example of that, and I understand the number has now reached 60.
The Jockey Club has consistently lobbied for a gradual phase-out of the drug in order to accurately assess the effects that a ban would have on the horse and our sport. It is extremely important to begin now so that we can take appropriate steps and take them with confidence in the future.
Thoroughbred racing as a sport has never made it a high priority to implement national uniformity or greater transparency or to compare itself to other sports or even to Thoroughbred racing in other countries. It didn't matter to a horseman in Kentucky, Maryland or New York what was happening in Louisiana, New Mexico or France. Now it does.
With simulcasting and the movement of horses, we are very much an interstate activity. We are also an international business through simulcasting and the reporting and exporting of bloodstock. Exporting of American bloodstock has grown exponentially in the past 30 years.
For example, over the past several years we have imported and exported about 4,000 horses annually to and from this country. It is the nature of the news as reported and disseminated that to all but a devoted fan and horse player what happens with frog juice, or precisely dermorphin, in Louisiana could, in their view, happen anywhere in our industry, and they think it probably does.
I wish I could wave a magic wand and change the coverage of our sport and the perception that it fosters, but I can't. So I think we need to ask, where do we go from here?
Well, for starters, I don't think the solution is defensiveness or attacking our critics. We have to look at the big picture, and the work we have to do is hard. We have to agree on a goal of ensuring that our sport is as safe as possible, and that our athletes are properly cared for we must also reassure public observers and our fans that we compare favorably to other sports and to the international racing community.
Among the first steps toward those goals is the sanctioning of people and practices that don't measure up to proper standards. The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Safety Committee will do everything in our power to establish appropriate standards of conduct, and put in place the mechanisms that will ensure their enforcement.
Thank you very much.