What safety initiatives are being implemented at California racetracks?

The California Horse Racing Board has long been involved in industry-leading research initiatives in collaboration with UC Davis. Current racing safety program components include the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System’s long-standing necropsy program, the J.D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory Racing Injury Prevention Program, continuing education modules for occupational licensees, and a formal Track Safety Program. The Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory has conducted hundreds of medication administration studies and has been instrumental in providing data used for establishing national threshold levels. Countless peer-reviewed studies have been published utilizing the data collected as the result of these numerous initiatives, and the knowledge imparted has led to tangible, practical changes in the industry. This is science in action.

A team of regulatory veterinarians submits information to two national databases which are used to mine information about individual risk factors for injury and serve as a statistical pool of information for specialized research studies. Every horse scheduled to run gets a visit from a regulatory veterinarian the morning of the race. A “pre-race inspection” is performed, and the physical findings are recorded in veterinary software modules provided by InCompass Systems. Following that inspection, every time a regulatory veterinarian has to take some kind of action, whether it’s excusing the horse from competition (“scratching” the horse), giving it a ride off the course in an equine ambulance, observing it be unsound following the race, etc., a record of the incident is entered into The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database. Statisticians use this information to measure risk factors and provide input into proposed rule or policy changes that have the potential to mitigate those risks. To date, data from nearly 2.5 million starts has been collected, and California has contributed to that database since day one.

Additionally, the track superintendent and maintenance crew provide data to the Racetrack Maintenance Quality System. This database compiles information drawn from on-site weather stations, track maintenance equipment, such as harrows and water trucks, and measurements taken of cushion depth, moisture, and soil composition. At the trackside level, this information is used to ensure the safest and most consistent surface on a day-to-day basis for our equine athletes. As part of a national database, this data can be mined for more general risk factors.