Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Photo by Laurie Asseo.

From a National Thoroughbred Racing Association releease

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that Laurel Park has earned re-accreditation from the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. Located in Laurel, Md., southwest of Baltimore, the 103-year-old racetrack is in the midst of its 2014 Fall Meet through Dec. 31, followed immediately by the 2015 Winter Meet from Jan. 1 to March 28.

Laurel Park received its initial Alliance accreditation in 2013. All accreditations and re-accreditations carry an effective period of two years.

“Laurel Park is proud of our accreditation by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance,” said Sal Sinatra, newly appointed Vice President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “The team here worked very hard with the Maryland Racing Commission and our horsemen to improve standards at all of our facilities and we will strive to do even more in the future.”

Laurel Park is operated by the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC), the corporation that also oversees Pimlico Race Course and the Bowie training center. The MJC is owned by The Stronach Group, one of the world’s leading racetrack operators.

Best Practices

In areas intended to create a safer racing environment, best practices cited at Laurel included mandatory use of safety helmets by all personnel on horseback, as well as assistant starters; catastrophic injury planning and procedures; mandatory presence and dedicated staffing of an equine ambulance during training and racing; the Maryland substance abuse and addiction treatment program; plans and protocols for infectious disease management; and the presence of practicing veterinarians anytime the track surfaces are open for use.

In the area of equine drug testing and penalties, best practices identified included shock wave therapy regulation and Racing Medication Testing Consortium (RMTC) accreditation of the track’s official testing laboratory, Truesdail Laboratories in Tustin, Calif. The MJC also received special commendation for being among the first adopters of the RMTC’s National Uniform Medication Program.

Regarding the health and safety of jockeys, best practices recognized included participation in the Jockey Health Information System, including concussion baseline testing.

Relating to aftercare and transition of retired racehorses, best practices include a funding mechanism in place for support of aftercare and relationships with organizations that care for horses. MJC helped to facilitate a formal partnership between the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, supporting farms that provide homes to retired Thoroughbreds that raced in Maryland. Additional funds have been raised via the Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show, a successful annual event showcasing Off-the-Track Thoroughbreds.

Laurel Park also was commended for best practices in protocols relating to wagering security, specifically the due diligence performed on those wishing to participate in comingled pari-mutuel pools.

The accreditation of Laurel Park was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track’s completion of a 48-page written application and continued as Laurel hosted several meetings with Alliance officials. An on-site review included inspections of all facets of the racing facility. Interviews were also conducted with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, stewards, and fans. The inspection team was comprised of Dr. Ron Jensen, DVM, former equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board; Mike Kilpack, security and integrity consultant and past chairman of the Organization of Racetrack Investigators; Richard Lewis, former trainer and Northern California racing executive; and Mike Ziegler, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

“The prompt adoption of additional reforms since our last inspection here about 18 months ago demonstrates a serious commitment to safety and integrity by the management, staff, horsemen and regulators at Laurel Park,” said Ziegler.

Laurel Park is one of 23 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance. Others are Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, Calder Casino and Race Course, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, , Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Los Alamitos Race Course, Monmouth Park, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Suffolk Downs, Sunland Park, Turfway Park and Woodbine.

The Alliance, formed in October 2008 with the goal of establishing national uniform standards in the areas of safety and integrity, includes 55 racetracks in North America and every major national horsemen’s organization. Alliance certification standards cover six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; safety research; and wagering security. Within those six categories, specific standards focus on areas including:

  • Systematic reporting of equine injuries
  • Aftercare of racehorses
  • Pre- and post-race veterinary examinations
  • Post-mortem examinations
  • Health and safety of jockeys
  • Riding crops and their use
  • Horse shoes and hoof care
  • Safety research
  • Safety equipment for jockeys and horse handlers
  • Exogenous Anabolic Steroids
  • Alkalinizing agents (TCO2)
  • On-track emergency medical care for humans and equines
  • Out-of-competition testing
  • Freezing and retrospective testing of post-race samples
  • Continuing education
  • Security assessment and training
  • Totalizator technology and “stop wagering” protocols
  • Wagering incident investigation

The NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance is a standing organization whose purpose is to establish standards and practices to promote safety and integrity in horseracing and to secure their implementation. Corporate partners of the Alliance include Pfizer Animal Health, FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Information on the Alliance, including the Alliance Code of Standards, can be found at