03/06/2009 1:00AM

NTRA approves set of safety standards

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The National Thoroughbred Racing Association's board of directors has approved a comprehensive set of safety and integrity compliance standards that soon will be in use at major racetracks throughout North America, the NTRA announced Friday.

The standards cover five categories: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired horses; uniform medication, testing, and penalties; and safety research.

The NTRA's Safety and Integrity Alliance soon will begin an accreditation process for tracks, with the three Triple Crown host tracks - Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont Park - expected to be among the first to go through that process. Several other tracks, including Keeneland, Delaware Park, and Hollywood Park, also will undergo review by the alliance when their race meets are under way next month.

The alliance, formed last fall when racing was under severe criticism and scrutiny in the aftermath of the death of Eight Belles at the 2008 Kentucky Derby, includes 55 racetracks and every major national horsemen's organization. The accreditation process also is expected to eventually to include wagering security, although not initially, according to an NTRA media release.

"Alliance members are committed to uniform implementation of these important safety and integrity initiatives in a timely and transparent manner," the NTRA's president, Alex Waldrop, said in the release.

Tommy Thompson, a former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, is serving as an independent counsel for the alliance and will provide public reports on its progress.

Churchill Downs Inc. announced last week that the company would implement the NTRA standards, along with some of their own, in time for the spring meet at its flagship track in Louisville, where the 135th Derby will be run May 2. The three other Churchill tracks - Arlington Park, Calder, and Fair Grounds - will conform to the company policy by the start of their race meets in 2010.

Further information on the alliance, including the complete compliance standards document, is available at .