LOS ANGELES (CNS) - California officials have agreed to comply with all federal rules and procedures governing horse racing, regulators announced Friday.
The California Horse Racing Board had already been enforcing and complying with safety regulations introduced in 2022 by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act/Authority. Under the new agreement, the CHRB will implement rules under the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program, which are scheduled to go into effect on March 27, state regulators announced Friday.
"The CHRB is proud of our work and record in safety and animal welfare, and therefore we want to have a role in shaping policy going forward," CHRB Executive Director Scott Chaney said. "We have partnered and supported the national effort from the beginning and appreciate the dedication of the authority and HIWU (the Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit)."
Under the agreement, the CHRB agrees to perform certain tasks for the Authority and HIWU, including collecting equine samples, testing those samples at UC Davis, collaborating on equine-related research, and performing investigations with respect to adverse analytical findings.
Officials added that since the CHRB and the state horse racing industry already pay for these activities, HISA is giving California a credit, reducing the state's annual fee due to HISA.
The CHRB also added that the federal rules are similar to those in California, meaning state horse racing participants will need to make fewer adjustments than some of their counterparts in other racing jurisdictions.
HISA was created by Congress in December 2020 to establish and enforce, under the oversight of the Federal Trade Commission, a national uniform set of rules applicable to every thoroughbred racing participant.
Martha Sullivan of Kill Racing Not Horses told City News Service that the federal rules don't go far enough to protect horses.
"The new federal Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act only covers thoroughbred racing, not quarter horse nor harness racing," Sullivan said. "In California, this means the track at Cal-Expo which hosts harness racing isn't covered at all by HISA, and Los Alamitos Race Course which is predominantly quarter horse racing, is largely not covered by HISA.
"It's not accurate when the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Authority says that a new era in horse racing safety is beginning because it doesn't cover all legal horse racing in the U.S. on which wagers are made. Quarter horses and standard-bred horses won't benefit from these enhanced safety measures," Sullivan added.
The issue of horse racing safety gained statewide and national attention in 2019, when 42 horses died at Santa Anita Park. The resulting uproar led to procedural and veterinary oversight changes at the park, and even some calls to ban the sport.
Santa Anita officials have said they've made major improvements in horse safety since then. After the completion of Santa Anita's winter-spring season last June, track officials hailed what they called major improvements in safety, and called the facility the safest track in North America compared to those with similar racing and training activity.
Nevertheless, seven horses have died at the Arcadia track so far in 2023, and racehorses continue to die at tracks throughout California. The CHRB listed 40 horse deaths from racing or training injuries at California tracks in 2022, including 12 each at Santa Anita and Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress.
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