03/13/2013 12:18PM

Penn National Gaming Inc. expands equine fatality inquiry process


Trainers of horses who suffer catastrophic injuries at the racetracks owned by Penn National Gaming Inc. will be required to participate in a “mortality review” with track officials and veterinarians under new house rules the company is putting into effect for all of its tracks in 2013, Penn National announced Wednesday.

The requirement is an expansion of an existing policy that has been at place at Penn National in Pennsylvania since 2010 and Charles Town in West Virginia since 2011, according to Chris McErlean, the company’s vice president of racing. In 2013, the requirement also will apply to Zia Park in New Mexico, Beulah Park in Ohio, and Sam Houston Race Park in Texas.

McErlean said that previous reviews of catastrophic injuries have consisted of interviews with the trainer of the horse about the fitness of the horse, veterinary records, training patterns, the horse’s history of injuries, and necropsy records, if available. Although the reviews have not produced any “smoking guns,” McErlean said, the examination of the factors that could have played a role in an injury has “identified some problems with certain individuals and practices” that the company has sought to rectify.

“The biggest thing it’s been able to accomplish is to let people know we’re watching, that they will be held accountable,” McErlean said.

The requirement was listed in the company’s latest edition of its “Horse Racing Guide,” a document it has produced since 2011 listing “practices and procedures designed to foster integrity and accountability” for licensees at Penn’s racetracks. The document is an extension of a racetrack’s power to subject licensees to additional rules that are not covered by state regulations.

McErlean said that the rules have been enforceable because Penn National’s tracks make reference to the guide in their stall applications and make the guides available at its racetracks. The enforcement of house rules sometimes stretches into murky legal territory, inviting challenges by licensees, but so far, McErlean said, the rules have not been successfully challenged.

The new racing guide also says that Penn National’s tracks will refuse to take an entry for a horse who has tested positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 medication within the previous 30 days. In addition, the guide says that Penn National “may deny privileges” to an owner if one of the owner’s horses has tested positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 medication.