01/19/2012 8:16PM

CHRB considers change in claiming rule

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday delayed deciding on a rule change that would allow a claim to be voided when a horse is severely injured during or after a race.

Currently, the stewards can void a claim if a horse is euthanized on the racetrack as a result of an injury suffered in the race in which it is claimed, or before the horse is returned to be unsaddled. The racing board heard a proposal at its monthly meeting on Thursday to change the rule, allowing the stewards to void a claim if “in the opinion of the official or racing veterinarian, the horse is injured so severely that it may not survive.”

The new language would allow a claim to be voided in the event a stricken horse can be transported off the track before being euthanized.

The new language divided the board, with some members in favor of a rule change, others in favor of more precise language. One commissioner, Jerry Moss, called for all restrictions to be removed in the event a claimed horse suffers a fatal injury. The racing board did not take action on Thursday, but is expected to revisit the potential rule change, possibly as early as its next scheduled meeting, on Feb. 23 at Santa Anita.

“Let’s write a new rule that leaves no massive amount of room for interpretation and tries to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” commissioner David Israel said after a lengthy debate.

The rule change was suggested after the 5-year-old mare Dave’s Revenge was euthanized shortly after being transported from the track at Hollywood Park on Dec. 2.

Dave’s Revenge finished second but suffered severe sesamoid injuries to her left foreleg shortly after the finish. She was vanned to the backstretch before she was euthanized. Dave’s Revenge was trained by Julio Canani for the Dec. 2 race, and was claimed for $8,000 by trainer Jeff Bonde.

Under the potential new rule, the track veterinarian could have suggested to the stewards that the mare was too severely injured to survive. At that point, the stewards could have voided the claim.

Dr. Rick Arthur, the racing board’s equine medical director, compared the situation to the conversations that take place between a track veterinarians and stewards when a horse is scratched during a post parade. The stewards, he said, make the decision to scratch a horse, acting on advice of the track or official veterinarian. “This is consistent with the responsibilities we put on a track veterinarian,” he said.

Moss spoke against all aspects of the rule.

“I think this language is a setback,” he said. “I think it can lead to liability and can lead to lawsuits. It clutters up the whole aspects of a claiming race. Claiming races are all about caveat emptor, buyer beware. Unfortunately, accidents happen that a healthy horse can be affected by.”

Any potential rule change is months from being enacted. If the racing board approves similar language in February, the issue would be put before the public for a 45-day comment period before coming back to the board for a final decision. The rule would then be subject to review by the state’s office of administrative law before taking effect, probably in the summer.