07/30/2014 3:39PM

Stronach Group hires equine health and safety director

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Dr. Robert O’Neil, an equine veterinarian who has served on Florida’s Board of Veterinary Medicine since 1993, has been hired by the Stronach Group as its first equine health and safety director, a position announced earlier this year as part of a broad initiative to reform medication and equine-health policies at the company’s tracks.

O’Neil, who has practiced equine medicine for 35 years, will be based at Gulfstream Park, the company said in a release, and will focus on implementing the company’s new policies at Gulfstream and Calder Race Course, which the Stronach Group is leasing from Churchill Downs Inc.

Gulfstream Park will be the company’s “model” for implementing the policies, the Stronach Group said in a statement, with the policies expanded to other tracks owned by the company after full implementation at Gulfstream.

Frank Stronach, the owner of the privately held Stronach Group, announced in April that he was seeking to implement new policies at his tracks focusing on medication and equine health, directed by the new equine health and safety director. The policies included a proposal to establish ontrack pharmacies at the company’s tracks that would control all the medications administered to horses on track grounds, and a requirement that all owners release their vet records to the track.

Several of the proposals have been met with skepticism from some members of the veterinary community because of logistical and legal hurdles.

“I look forward to implementing these important industry reforms,” O’Neil said in a statement. “I feel privileged to work with the Stronach Group, who are true leaders in this industry.”

In addition to Gulfstream, the Stronach Group owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in California; Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course in Maryland; and Portland Meadows in Oregon, among other racing assets.