05/12/2010 11:00PM

Sunland gets conditional safety approval


A racing-industry group that awards accreditation to racetracks for compliance with a voluntary safety program has given Sunland Park in New Mexico "provisional accreditation" after finding that the track did not comply with all of the requirements of the program.

The Safety and Integrity Alliance, which administers the accreditation program, said that Sunland could receive full accreditation in the future if the track and the New Mexico Racing Commission addressed a number of issues that left the track short of the program's requirements.

Mike Ziegler, the executive director of the alliance, said that New Mexico's rules do not currently require the state's tracks to conduct prerace testing for alkalinizing agents in all races, for example, and the state vet is not currently required to conduct prerace veterinary exams on every horse. Sunland Park has promised to hire a veterinarian who will implement a prerace testing program for alkalinizing agents and who will also perform veterinary exams on horses who have not been examined by the state vet, Ziegler said.

"They're doing a really good job of getting up to speed," Ziegler said.

In addition, the state's threshold level for the popular painkiller flunixin, which is marketed under the name Banamine, is much higher than the threshold level required by the alliance, Ziegler said. The state will also need to adopt rules that limit whips to cushioned crops that are sanctioned by the alliance, according to Ziegler.

The state racing commission is scheduled to address a number of those issues at a meeting on May 18, according to an agenda for the meeting.

Sunland Park is not currently running live, and does not open again until Dec. 11. Ziegler said that the alliance will re-evaluate the track at that time.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association launched the alliance last year to address public-perception concerns about racing's safety record. So far, the alliance has granted full accreditation to 17 tracks.

Sunland Park is only the second track to receive provisional accreditation. The first was Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Pimlico was granted full accreditation earlier this week, a year after receiving provisional accreditation.