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Belmont Park earns re-accreditation from NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance

By NTRA Communications | 09/23/2013 10:55 AM ET

Numerous Best Practices Identified at Track and in New York

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today announced that Belmont Park has earned re-accreditation from the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. Located just outside of New York City, in Elmont, N.Y., the track hosts its biggest day of the current Fall Championship Meet on Saturday, with six stakes worth $3.4 million, including five Grade I events, led by the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational.

Belmont Park's re-accreditation followed a complete review of all racing operations at the facility. Belmont received its initial Alliance accreditation in 2009, the Alliance's first year. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years. 

During the latest Alliance inspection of Belmont, best practices were identified in virtually every primary area of focus for the Alliance.

"As with all of the New York Racing Association tracks, Belmont Park meets or exceeds industry standards in the most critical areas pertaining to safety and integrity," said Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

In the area of injury reporting and prevention, best practices identified included the reporting of injuries and fatalities and the use of an Injury Review Committee.

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Belmont included starting gate padding and protocols for gate manning and removal; equine ambulance staffing, equipment and protocols; rider medical care and ambulance support (especially the Jockey Advocate program); ensuring practicing veterinarians are on the grounds when horses are present; racing surface maintenance protocols; and sufficient security and support personnel for paddock safety.

Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included the jockey weight out/weigh in procedures, observation of a scale of weights, Jockey Health Information System protocols, and jockey qualification regulation.

In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included exogenous anabolic steroids regulation and Shockwave therapy regulation and protocols.

Relating to safety research, best practices were cited for participation in, and funding, a number of research programs geared toward the betterment of racing.

Belmont also was cited for best practices in protocols to conduct due diligence on entities wishing to gain access to wagering pools.

"We are gratified to have received such a favorable report following the Alliance's inspection of Belmont Park," said Glen Kozak, Vice President of Facilities & Racing Surfaces for The New York Racing Association, Inc. "The safety of our racing and the integrity of our operations are at the heart of all we do here. We will constantly work to maintain and improve upon our standards on behalf of our thoroughbreds and of all who participate in and enjoy racing at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course."  

The re-accreditation of Belmont was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track's completion of a 48-page written application and continued as Belmont hosted several meetings with Alliance officials. The on-site review included inspections of all facets of the racing facility, with special attention paid to areas that were newly added to the Alliance's Code of Standards in 2012 and 2013. Such areas containing new or more stringent requirements include the establishment of an injury review committee; starting-gate-removal protocols; recording and storage of racing surface data; regulatory veterinarian protocols and procedures; and post parade/starting gate scratch protocols. Interviews were also conducted with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, stewards and fans. The inspection team was comprised of Ron Jensen, DVM, former equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board; Richard Lewis, former trainer and Northern California racing executive; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant and past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators (ORI); and Ziegler.

Belmont is one of 24 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance. Others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Arlington Park, Betfair Hollywood Park, Calder Casino and Race Course, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Fairplex Park, Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park, Monmouth Park, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Suffolk Downs, Sunland Park, Turfway Park and Woodbine.

The Alliance, formed in October 2008 with the goal of establishing national uniform standards in the areas of safety and integrity, includes 55 racetracks in North America and every major national horsemen's organization. Alliance certification standards cover six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; safety research; and wagering security. Within those six categories, specific standards focus on areas including:

  • Systematic reporting of equine injuries
  • Aftercare of racehorses
  • Pre- and post-race veterinary examinations
  • Post-mortem examinations
  • Health and safety of jockeys
  • Riding crops and their use
  • Horse shoes and hoof care
  • Safety research
  • Safety equipment for jockeys and horse handlers
  • Exogenous Anabolic Steroids
  • Alkalinizing agents (TCO2)
  • On-track emergency medical care for humans and equines
  • Out-of-competition testing
  • Freezing and retrospective testing of post-race samples
  • Continuing education
  • Security assessment and training
  • Totalizator technology and "stop wagering" protocols
  • Wagering incident investigation

The NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance is a standing organization whose purpose is to establish standards and practices to promote safety and integrity in horseracing and to secure their implementation. Corporate partners of the Alliance include Pfizer Animal Health, FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Information on the Alliance, including the Alliance Code of Standards, can be found at www.NTRAalliance.com.