05/14/2010 12:00AM

Jockey Club, NTRA respond to congressmen


The Jockey Club and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association separately sent letters on Friday to two congressmen outlining the steps the industry has taken over the past two years to improve conditions in the racing industry and push for the adoption of model rules, in response to an inquiry by the two legislators two weeks ago.

Both responses contend that the racing industry has made significant progress in addressing concerns that legislators raised two years ago when racing officials appeared in front of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection. The hearing was called following the high-profile breakdown of the filly Eight Belles following her second-place finish in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.

"We believe the record will indicate that more progress has been made during the past two years . . . than in any other comparable time period in history," the Jockey Club wrote in its 18-page response, according to a copy of the letter distributed by the Jockey Club on Friday night.

The Jockey Club response cites the adoption of a rule in 31 states regulating the use of anabolic steroids, the establishment of a database tracking horse fatalities and a laboratory to test racing surfaces, and a push led by state racing commissions to establish an interstate compact that would allow racing jurisdictions to quickly adopt rules across state lines, among other developments.

The NTRA devoted a large portion of its 14-page response to the establishment of the Safety and Integrity Alliance, a voluntary program launched last year that requires racetracks to comply with a set of guidelines in order to be accredited. To date, the alliance has fully accredited 17 tracks. On Thursday, the alliance announced that it had awarded provisional accreditation to an 18th track, Sunland Downs.

Two weeks ago, on the eve of the Kentucky Derby, Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico, and Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, sent the NTRA a letter asking the association to respond to nine questions to gauge "the current state of horse racing in the United States." The questions all pertained to uniformity of medication rules, current practices to enforce the rules, and the industry's efforts to collect data on injuries.

In their responses, the Jockey Club and the NTRA both addressed the nine questions separately.

Whitfield is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection.