Friday, April 18, 2014

New York Times: Horse Owners and Trainers Say They’ll Release Veterinary Records

In an effort to restore integrity and transparency to a sport battered by scandal, some of horse racing’s most prominent owners and trainers pledged Thursday to make public the veterinary records of their horses competing in high-level stakes races, including the Kentucky Derby.
The horsemen have agreed to turn over records for the two weeks before any graded stakes races with the understanding that they will be made available to the public two hours before post time. More than 40 owners and trainers have signed on, including the Hall of Fame trainers Bill Mott and Neil Drysdale, old-line Kentucky breeders and owners like Will Farish, and partnership syndicates like Dogwood Stable.


The initiative was started by Ogden Mills Phipps, the chairman of the Jockey Club, who this week suggested that the veterinary records for every horse entered in this year’s Triple Crown races be made available to assure the public that the sport cared about the health of its athletes and the fairness of its competition.
“The outpouring of support for this initiative has been dramatic, and this is just a preliminary list of those who have stepped forward in the past few days,” Phipps said in a statement Thursday. “I commend each of the owners and trainers for taking a bold step to enhance the image of our sport, and it is our sincere hope that other owners and trainers will soon adopt this voluntary practice as well.”
There have been four congressional hearings since 2008 about drug use in the sport. One Derby-winning trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr. (Big Brown, 2008), was banned for 10 years for repeated drug violations, and another, Doug O’Neill (I’ll Have Another, 2012), served a drug-related suspension shortly after the Triple Crown.
The trainer Steve Asmussen and his top assistant, Scott Blasi, are under investigation by state and federal authorities over accusations that they subjected their horses to cruel treatments, including administering drugs for nontherapeutic purposes and having one of their jockeys use an electronic device to shock horses into running faster. Asmussen is scheduled to saddle the colt Tapiture in the Derby.
Among those who signed the pledge were the owners or trainers of 11 horses that were on the Triple Crown trail, including three that are likely to start in the Derby: Cairo Prince, owned by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum; Ring Weekend, co-owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Graham Motion; and Vinceremos, co-owned by WinStar Farm.
In recent days, there have been some meaningful steps to put an end to a pervasive drug culture among veterinarians and trainers that put horses and riders at risk. In 2012, a New York Times investigation identified the nation’s most dangerous venues and found that 24 horses a week died at tracks in the United States, a rate greater than in countries where drug use was severely restricted.
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