The chairman of The Jockey Club April 14 called for public release of the veterinary records of all horses entered in this year's Triple Crown races, and also said the industry should partner with the United States Anti-Doping Agency to facilitate medication reform.
Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, in a lengthy statement, said publishing vet records "can bring greater credibility to the races that define our sport, at a time when millions are watching." Phipps said the Hong Kong Jockey Club does so and is a leading jurisdiction in terms of the amount of money wagered on horse racing.
"I propose that veterinary records of every horse entered in this year's Triple Crown races be made immediately available," Phipps said. "The New York State Gaming Commission does this, but only for a three-day period from the day of the race. I suggest a much longer period: 14 days.
"In fact, that was the principle behind the 2013 recommendation of The Jockey Club's Thoroughbred Safety Committee to create a centralized database of all treatments and procedures administered to horses in training. A majority of states already mandate this kind of reporting, but there is spotty compliance and, with few exceptions, little public disclosure."
Based on discussion April 8 during the Association of Racing Commissioners International conference in Lexington, public disclosure could be complicated. The Jockey Club at the meeting proposed a model rule for electronic record keeping of treatment records of horses, but regulators were uncomfortable with the language as written.
RCI officials said the issue isn't regulators having the information. It's more about state-by-state open public records laws as well as regulations that cover veterinary practice.
"The issue is not retaining records," said Larry Eliason, chairman of the RCI Model Rules Committee and executive secretary for the South Dakota Commission on Gaming. "The question is where they are retained, which brings in the open public records law. They vary from state to state."
The Jockey Club offered to create and maintain the database.
Dave Basler, executive director of the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said horsemen are concerned about a proposal to add the vet-reporting language to the trainer responsibility rule. He also said that in Ohio, vet records aren't subject to being in the public domain.
"If it gets into the public domain, this certainly is a major rule change," Basler said. "The National HBPA would probably have no issue with regulators having access to the records. It's the issue of others having access to them."
RCI president Ed Martin said 13 racing states require submission of vet records and 12 retain them, mostly in paper form. He said the proposed database is "an attempt to facilitate commission review [of records] and streamline the process," and that if the database keys off of each horse, users could track all treatments regardless of which vet was involved.
"Veterinary treatment records have been a debate in public as to what treatment is appropriate," Martin said. "We do have a desire to understand in greater depth what practicing vets are doing to horses."
Phipps, who in March said The Jockey Club is prepared to back federal oversight of horse racing if substantial progress isn't soon made in adopting the National Uniform Medication Program, noted April 14 the organization has provided input to lawmakers that introduced the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act in 2012. The measure would put USADA in charge of medication policy for horse racing.
"We have also reached out to USADA to explore how that organization could partner with racing interests to bring about the needed reforms as proposed in the National Uniform Medication Program," Phipps said.
The latest developments come in the wake of the release by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of secretly-taken video that documented activity in the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen in 2013. Phipps in his statement predicted a "dark cloud" will be over Thoroughbred racing through the Triple Crown season, and went so far as to say Asmussen should "stay away" from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Kentucky Oaks "for the good of the game."