Horse Racing Reform Bill Impacts Thoroughbred Racing

As the federal government was racing to pass a new $1.4 trillion spending bill this past weekend, other pieces of legislation were tied to that package. One of those amendments could have a major impact on Thoroughbred horse racing in the US.

It is known as the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. The entire bill has already been approved by the US Senate and House. This makes it safe to say that this act will also become law heading into the 2021 racing season. Signup to Amwager to bet on the upcoming season.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky which gives him a vested interest in this new legislation. Also very active in the process was Congressman Andy Barr from that same state. McConnell was quoted as saying:

“With the leadership of Congressman Andy Barr and the partnership of sports leaders, horse advocates, and fans, we’re one step closer to promoting fairness and safety across Thoroughbred racing.”

Barr followed up McConnell’s thoughts by stating:

“With today’s passage of HISA in Congress, we are in the final stretch of achieving the most transformational and consequential reform of the Thoroughbred horseracing industry since the enactment of the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. For almost a decade, I have worked with industry stakeholders and my Congressional colleagues to build consensus and international competitiveness in the sport.”

The primary goal of this legislation is to add a national structure to the racing industry. One of its main provisions is shifting the control of drug enforcement to the US Anti-Doping Agency. Part of the plan is to phase out the use of Lasix.

Lasix is a diuretic that prevents the absorption of too much salt. As far as Thoroughbred racing, many feel this could be considered a performance-enhancing substance. The US is the only country that still allows the use of Lasix outside of training.

The bill has been supported by numerous horseracing industry groups. This list includes the Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

One of the biggest groups voicing its opposition to the reform act was the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA). This is mainly due to the new rules covering drug enforcement. The group maintains that the process does not involve consultation with veterinarians.

The NHBPA also has issues with the US Anti-Doping Agency’s qualifications in the field of equines. Questions also remain when it comes to the added cost of paying for enforcement.

Eric Hamelback is the CEO of NHBPA. He voiced his concerns with the new reforms when they were first proposed back in September. Part of his public statements included:

“There were no horsemen’s representative groups, period, that were consulted. Now I don’t speak for anyone else, but at the end of the day I think it’s still very evident, in particular, veterinary leadership groups have not been included.”

As with any new piece of legislation, the bugs will need to be addressed and worked out. The agreement among all the parties still lies with the overall health and safety of Thoroughbreds and their prominent role in the horseracing industry.

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