01/13/2006 12:00AM

Oaklawn to implement new security measures


Oaklawn Park and the Arkansas Racing Commission are working together to increase backstretch security for the track's meet that will open on Friday. There are plans to use a surveillance system with wireless cameras; incorporate random, prerace blood testing on horses; and assign an independent monitor to the stable area. The state's existing rules provide for the measures, according to an official with the racing commission.

For opening weekend at Oaklawn, in Hot Springs, Ark., officials hope to have a surveillance program in place that will transmit images from cameras around the stable area to monitors in the test barn. The number of cameras to be employed was still being discussed on Friday.

"The system that we anticipate setting up - and we're working on it right now - will be a remote, wireless system so the cameras will be movable, transportable, and they might go in different barns, different shed rows on different days," said Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn.

The track is supplying the technology to the commission. The surveillance program, which includes a camera in the test barn, is one of three major recommendations that came out of a recent racing committee meeting on backstretch security. As for the prerace testing, any number of drug tests could be run on the blood samples taken. The new backstretch agent will be state-employed and considered a racing official.

"The stewards will assign certain stables to the inspector on a daily basis to monitor," said Shelby McCook, interim manager of the racing commission.

McCook said horsemen were informed of the new procedures during a meeting last Monday.

"I don't think anybody in the business really cares to be associated with anybody who is cheating and who is not following the regulations that everybody else is trying to follow," said Earl Bellamy, president of the Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "So we're for anything that would ferret out those particular individuals, and we're for making the field as level as we can for everybody who is participating."

The new initiatives keep with Arkansas's aggressive drug-testing policies. Last year, the state conducted supertests on horses in random races, not just graded stakes as required. Arkansas also instituted a program that enabled owners to turn back claimed horses who tested positive for erythropoietin, or EPO. The commission has also been a leader in testing for alkalizing agents.

* The commission on Thursday approved Oaklawn's wagering menu, which includes a new pick four and a 10-cent minimum on superfectas. The track also has been approved for net-pool pricing, which will enable its simulcast signal to be sent to Canada.