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NYRA Announces New Safety Policies

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) has announced two new policies that will augment the organization’s already industry-leading safety and integrity standards.


The first is a new house rule which states “The director of racing or the chief examining veterinarian has the right to refuse the entry of any horse with which they have any nature of concern.”


Additionally, once racing at Aqueduct Racetrack returns to the main track on Wednesday, April 4, NYRA will raise the bottom claiming level from its current $7,500 to $10,000. When racing shifts to Belmont Park on Friday, April 27, the lowest level claiming race will be raised to $12,500.


“I applaud NYRA for introducing these new policies,” said Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “We continually have discussions on additional ways to ensure the safety and welfare of our athletes - both human and equine. Raising the bottom claiming level has been a given and it was just a matter of when we would institute the change. Making the first increase when we go to the main track at Aqueduct and expanding it at Belmont Park makes perfect sense, as we want to have a continued effort to raise the bar of quality of racing in New York.”


The two new policies augment an extensive list of safety and integrity policies and procedures already in place at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course. All three NYRA tracks have earned accreditation from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance.


A partial list of the safety and integrity policies in place at NYRA’s three tracks is as follows:


  • NYRA Veterinary Staff – NYRA veterinary department consists of seven full-time veterinarians, two full-time assistants, and two part-time veterinarians, more than any other racing jurisdiction in North America.
  • Drug Testing – NYRA has a comprehensive in-house drug testing program to detect illegal performance-enhancing substances in horses which employs state-of-the-art science, technology, and procedural processes. New York tests for 1,000 medications and has the highest amount of horse sampling of any jurisdiction in the United States, both pre-and post-race, with approximately four per race, on average. The program includes random out-of-competition testing designed to effectively deter the use of blood-doping agents. NYRA also has an “in-today” process that identifies all horses, in their stalls, running in a NYRA race within 24 hours. All horses entering a race must report to an assembly barn just prior to moving to the paddock for saddling. NYRA vets draw blood from all the horses in three or four randomly selected races every day for blood gas analysis (TCO2 testing), including every graded stakes race. NYRA’s robust testing regimen is supported by stiff mandatory penalties for trainers of horses testing positive for illegal drugs.
  • Pre-Race Exams – NYRA vets conduct comprehensive pre-race exams during the morning on every horse entered to race that day. If the horse is not considered sound, the vet has the discretion to place the horse on either a 10-day restricted list or a 14-day vet’s list, meaning that the horse cannot race for either specified period of time. NYRA vets maintain detailed information on each horse they have examined for use in future examinations.
  • Vet’s List – In order to be removed from the 14-day vet’s list, the horse will be required to work out in the presence of a NYRA vet. In assessing the horse’s soundness and eligibility to be removed from the vet’s list, the NYRA vet may consult with the trainer’s private vet and may sample the horse for the presence of medications.
  • Bleeders’ List – If a NYRA vet determines that a horse has bled during a race or a workout, the first time they are placed on the bleeder’s list and not allowed to run for 10 days, the second time 30 days, the third time 90 days, and the fourth time a year.
  • Race Day Medications – According to state regulations, NYRA does not allow any race day anti-inflammatory medications or adjunct bleeder medications to be used on horses. Many racing jurisdictions allow these medications. The only race day medication allowed by NYRA is Lasix.
  • Lasix Administration – NYRA vets administer Lasix to horses on race day in order to prevent private vets from entering a horse’s stall on race day. NYRA is the only jurisdiction in the United States where official racetrack vets administer Lasix.
  • Paddock Supervision – A NYRA vet is present in the paddock area as the horses are being saddled, observing for injuries or to address any veterinary situation that may arise.
  • Racetrack Supervision – During the races there are at least two NYRA vets on the track, one at the starting gate and one at the finish line. If a horse is scratched at the gate due to unsoundness, the horse goes on the 14-day vet’s list. The vet at the finish line watches the horses complete the race, pull up, and return to be unsaddled, checking for any horses returning sore, lame, in distress, or bleeding from the nostrils.
  • Ambulances – NYRA has four equine ambulances with at least two on the track during the races, and the drivers have two-way radios in case they need to summon the vets. NYRA broadcasts a live, head-on video of all NYRA races directly into the chase ambulance that follows the horses around the track during each race.
  • Claiming Drop-Down Rule – NYRA’s rule states a horse cannot start in a lower priced claiming race within 30 days of being claimed. During that 30-day period, the horse is eligible to start only for a tag at least 25 percent higher than the race from which it was most recently claimed.
  • Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) – NYRA has a stringent policy regarding ESWT, which is a non-invasive treatment that uses sound waves to promote the healing of an injury. This type of treatment is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for human patients and is commonly used at racetracks on horses. All ESWT therapy machines on the NYRA grounds must be registered with the chief examining vet and the vet must be notified of all ESWT treatments, whether they occur on NYRA grounds or off the premises. Horses may not race for a minimum of 10 days after receiving ESWT treatment. All ESWT treatments on NYRA grounds must be done between the hours of noon and 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays, with appointments made through the Stewards office.
  • Anti-Slaughter Policy – NYRA has an anti-slaughter policy which states that any owner or trainer stabled at a NYRA track found to have knowingly sold a horse for slaughter will have his or her stalls permanently revoked from all NYRA tracks. NYRA requires its horsemen to conduct due diligence on those buying horses and encourages them to support rescue and adoption efforts and to find humane ways of dealing with horses unable to continue racing.
  • Jockey Medical Advocate Program – NYRA was the first racing jurisdiction to implement a jockey advocate program, designed to assist jockeys taken to area hospitals after an accident. Under the program, a Registered Nurse serving as the jockey advocate is on-call during all NYRA races. If a rider is taken to the hospital, the jockey advocate meets the injured rider at the hospital to ensure that he or she is well cared for, and assist both jockey and family members with medical and administrative matters.
  • Jockey Health Information System – NYRA adopted a system originally conceived by Keeneland and created in collaboration with InCompass that uses a secure online database to store jockeys’ updated medical histories and makes it possible for emergency medical personnel at racetracks to instantly access that information.




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