What HISA says about claiming races

While much of the discussion about the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) and the Authority it creates has centered on its registration requirement and so-called “search and seizure” rule, the new regime will ultimately impact the sport of racing in myriad ways large and small.

The first slate of HISA rules takes effect July 1. Those rules comprise the “safety” element of HISA; the medication control and anti-doping regs are scheduled for a January 1, 2023 implementation date.

One element of the new rules effective July 1 deals with claiming races. Here’s what those rules will do.

The new HISA regime will provide for a standard, nationwide void claim rule.

While void claim programs have become more popular in recent years, their installation has been patchy and at times confusing, even to regulators. In one case from 2021, Delaware regulators didn’t render a final decision on whether a claim was voided or not until after a horse had been euthanized.

The new HISA rule should standardize the process.

It requires a claim be voided in five different circumstances:

  • The horse dies during the running of the race;
  • The horse is euthanized before leaving the track;
  • The horse is vanned off “by discretion of the Regulatory Veterinarian”;
  • The regulatory veterinarian within one hour of the race places the horse on the vets’ list as “Bled, physically distressed, medically compromised, unsound, or lame”; or
  • The horse has a positive test for a “Prohibited Substance.”

However, a person seeking to claim a horse can, prior to the race, choose to claim the horse even if it is placed on the vets’ list or the subsequently tests positive for a prohibited substance. That provision is important because sometimes horses are claimed for non-racing purposes – for their value as a broodmare, for example – where the horse’s having bled or received a positive test wouldn’t bear on their future use.

The rule is similar to those in some Mid-Atlantic states but is not identical.

In Maryland, for example, claims are automatically voided if the horse dies on the track or is euthanized. And they may be voided, at the claimant’s discretion, if the horse is vanned off at the direction of the state vet or is sent to the detention barn and observed by the state vet to be lame.

Maryland’s claiming rule is silent on medication positives.

Delaware’s rule directs that claims “shall be voided” if a horse dies on the racetrack, is euthanized, is vanned off at the direction of the state vet, or is observed by the state vet to be lame or unsound and is therefore placed on the vets’ list.

Delaware also permits a claimant to void a claim if a post-race test shows the presence of a prohibited substance or “an illegal level of a permitted medication.”

Under HISA, these slight local rules variations will be brought into uniformity, and those states still lacking a void claim rule will now have one.

Another component of the new HISA rule directs the transfer of “Trainer records and… veterinary records to the new trainer within 3 days” of the claim.

Those records, according to the regulation, must include “medical, therapeutic, and surgical treatments and procedures for every Covered Horse.”

They do not, however, include, for example, normal training activities. That was a point Authority CEO Lisa Lazarus emphasized to a recent meeting convened by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association on HISA.

HISA also includes a provision permitting owners to waive the claiming tag on a horse who has not raced for 120 days or more, ran last time out for a claiming tag, and would be entered this time for a tag equal to or greater than the one for which it last ran.

Maryland and Delaware both have an identical provision in their regulations. West Virginia’s current rule requires the horse’s layoff to have been at least 180 days.

One provision in HISA’s original proposed regulation that did not make the final rule would have set the purses for claiming races at not more than 1.6 times the claiming price. That would have had a big impact at the lower end of the claiming ladder, where purses are often twice or more the claiming price.