(WAVE) - A push for national regulation of horse racing appears to be gaining momentum in Congress.
The bipartisan plan called The Horse Racing Integrity Act would improve safety for horses and jockeys, and create uniform standards from state to state.
“The sport needs this shot in the arm,” Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said. “Because again, the fans are very discerning. People are concerned about the wellbeing of the athlete, the equine athlete, the safety of the jockeys. Jockeys have retired early out of concern for some of the lack of attention to these matters.”
Deadly injuries for horse racing at Kentucky tracks in 2018 came at a rate 40 percent above the national average.
At Churchill Downs, four horses suffered fatal injuries in four days.
This year in California, racing at Santa Anita Park was suspended after 21 horses died, double the normal number.
The bill has support of animal welfare groups, the Jockey Club, The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Keeneland and others.
But Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen released a statement mentioning “serious concerns.”
“We don’t believe a federal bill is practical, reasonable, or imminent,” Carstanjen said.
“We need to make sure thoroughbred racing in America is safe,” Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky, said. “We need to make sure horseplayers and a new generation of fans have confidence in the integrity of the sport. So there is a need to create uniformity in the rules of racing.”
Barr predicts strong support for the Horse Racing Integrity Act in the House.