01/09/2013 5:05PM

Oaklawn notes: Database to bolster new veterinary inspection policy


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – As the Arkansas Racing Commission launches a prerace veterinary examination program Friday at Oaklawn Park, the track is rolling out a new injury database covering horses racing at the meet. The goal of both parties is to enhance the safety of racing at Oaklawn.

Veterinary examinations of horses in both the paddock and at post time has been standard practice at Oaklawn, but a new rule the commission passed in November paves the way for morning exams on all horses racing that afternoon. In the past, Oaklawn had conducted such exams on a case-by-case basis, said David Longinotti, assistant general manager for racing at the track.

“They were done when needed in the morning, or when the stewards asked for them,” he said. “This is the first time we will have two state vets checking horses in the morning on a regular basis.”

Longinotti is the person behind the new injury database. He spent the off-season compiling a list of horses who might be predisposed to injury, based on their finishes in previous starts and their racing and workout patterns.

“When the state started talking about prerace exams, we kind of went through our records over the past five years, and using chart data and other data pulled together a list of horses that failed to finish, that might have shown a significant drop in performance in their last three starts, or that had not raced in 60 or more days,” he said.

He said the data base information would be available to state veterinarians working the meet at Oaklawn.

“The goal is to help identify horses, before they hit the entry box or as they hit the entry box, that might need more than the usual look at,” said Longinotti.

The racing commission in November adopted the rule mandating prerace exams. It was done to remain on par with the Racing Commissioners International model rules, said the commission’s executive director, Ron Oliver.

“It’s to help ensure the added safety of the horse and jockey,” he said.

Oliver said the commission has hired an additional veterinarian, Dr. Nancy Bohnhoff, to assist with the exams.

New claiming rules in place

The Arkansas Racing Commission has adopted two amendments to its claiming rules that will go into effect Friday at Oaklawn. One moves the deadline for depositing a claim in the claiming box from 15 to 10 minutes before post. The other gives a person who claimed a horse that was either “fatally injured during the race or is otherwise removed from the track in an ambulance” an hour to void the claim.

The second amendment is a significant, positive change, said Eric Jackson, the general manager of Oaklawn.

“The adoption of that rule is a step in the direction of making [racing] safer,” he said. “There’s no temptation to enter a horse that may not be completely sound in hopes that somebody will claim him.”

Oaklawn is a hotbed for claiming activity as a track that draws fresh horses returning from layoffs, as well as horses from all parts of the country. Last meet, there were 297 claims during the three-month meet, for $3,504,000.