Congress steps closer to oversight of horse racing

Congress steps closer to oversight of horse racing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Horse Racing Integrity Act took another step closer to passage in the House as supporters testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Those invited to testify supported federal oversight of a sport reeling from deadly injuries to horses.

“We want the cleanest possible sport,” Jockey Club Vice-Chairman William Lear, Jr. said. “We want the safest possible sport. And we want an even playing field.”

A sharp spike in fatal injuries saw 49 horses die in 12 months at Santa Anita in 2019.

Churchill Downs exceeded the national average for deadly injuries in 2018, including four horses dying in just four days.

“Racing is in a crisis,” Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, said. “And we need to make sure we preserve and protect these beautiful animals, the equine athletes and the human athletes, so that we can continue to attract a new generation of fans and make sure this sport has another 100 years.”

Barr is currently the only Kentucky congressman supporting the Act, which has enough committed co-sponsors to pass if it comes up for a vote in the House. A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate.

Churchill Downs recently joined Keeneland and other tracks around the country in forming the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition.

A statement from Churchill Downs after the hearing said the industry seeks “an independent national authority to lead the pursuit of uniform national standards” and the TSC “offers the most sensible and compelling approach to establishing and enforcing the highest standards possible.”

Tuesday evening, the TSC issued a statement that read in part, "Through increased medication restrictions, expanded veterinary examinations, stricter transparency and accountability measures, centralized and increased reporting requirements, data analysis, more consistent racing surfaces and additional operational reforms, the coalition will promote a culture of safety in Thoroughbred racing. The most powerful traditions are those that adapt. Change cannot wait.”

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