Horse racing leaders move to set national safety standards

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Looking to halt doping scandals and horse deaths marring their sport, thoroughbred racing leaders Monday announced the launch of an integrity and safety authority to create national standards replacing the patchwork of state regulations overseeing the industry.

The authority will help set industry-wide standards for medication use, track conditions and other safety standards to protect thoroughbreds and their riders.

The initiative will be backed by federal legislation to be introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican said the horse racing industry “deserves uniform standards and guidelines that will help protect this sport.”

The legislation will provide federal recognition and enforcement power for the new Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to develop uniform, baseline standards for the industry.

“If we want to preserve horse racing and its future, we needed to act,” McConnell said at a news conference at Keeneland in the heart of Kentucky’s horse industry. “We owe it to the horses. We owe it to the jockeys. We owe it to the trainers, the breeders and fans to make thoroughbred racing as fair and as safe as possible.”

Horse racing has been hobbled by schemes to drug horses to make them race faster and by horse deaths. Santa Anita racetrack has been rattled by a number of deaths when horses broke down.

Unlike other professional sports with central league offices, thoroughbred racing is regulated at the state level, resulting in a patchwork of rules on medication standards and testing protocols. The authority will be an independent, non-governmental regulatory body that will bring more transparency to the inner-workings of horse racing, industry leaders said.

“Simply put, it is an inefficient system,” said Drew Fleming, president and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited. “Our industry needs uniform standards and protocols that are consistently enforced to make sure that integrity and equine safety are top priorities for every track, every horseman in every race.”

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