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HISA Makes Strides in First Year of Implementation

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s Racetrack Safety Program took effect July 1, 2022, and in its first year of implementation has, for the first time in Thoroughbred racing’s history, consistently enforced national equine safety and racetrack accreditation standards that seek to enhance equine welfare and minimize equine and jockey injuries.

“There is no doubt there is much work ahead of us, and our mandate has never been more critical, but we’ve seen important progress in the year since HISA first went into effect, and I’m proud of the foundation we have laid for Thoroughbred racing’s future across our country,” said HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus.

Lisa Lazarus Chief executive officer HISA<br>
Keeneland 2.11.22 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Photo: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

Lisa Lazarus

“We started from a blank piece of paper and the collaboration, patience, and goodwill of the vast majority of racing participants have allowed us to undertake this monumental task and to continuously improve throughout our first year. I am confident that HISA will continue to usher in a fairer, safer, and more modern framework that seeks to ensure that all racing participants prioritize horse and jockey health and welfare above all else.”

In the year since HISA was implemented:

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  • HISA launched and began successfully implementing both its Racetrack Safety Program (July 1, 2022) and its Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) Program (May 22, 2023), establishing, for the first time, a national, uniform set of integrity and safety rules in the sport.
  • Every Thoroughbred that races in the U.S. is required to be registered in a centralized database. More than 32,000 Covered Persons and 48,000 Covered Horses have been registered with HISA.
  • In accordance with HISA’s rules, every Thoroughbred is required to have a pre-race veterinary inspection every time it races, at any track. Veterinarians across the country have conducted more than 33,400 pre-race inspections since July 1, 2022. More than 1,000 veterinarians actively involved in the daily and specialized care of equine athletes are registered with HISA. On average, HISA receives close to 3,000 veterinary treatment reports each day.
  • More than one million veterinary treatment records have been uploaded to HISA’s portal. This kind of transformational data will be used to help identify horses at increased risk for injury and to inform future rulemaking.
  • HISA has created a national vets list that places all horses unfit to compete on a comprehensive list that monitors Thoroughbreds throughout their careers and across the country.
  • HISA has enacted a voided claims rule to allow a steward to cancel a claim if a horse is not completely sound after running a race, which deters entering a horse with any pre-existing injuries.
  • HISA has provided the industry with its first ever National Medical Director and dedicated Jockey Safety and Welfare Manager, both of whom work exclusively to enhance and expand safety programs for the sport’s professional human athletes.
  • HISA and the Jockeys’ Guild have begun working together to explore the mental wellness challenges jockeys face and the resources that would be most helpful to address them.
  • HISA has created a national Horsemen’s Advisory Group, which it regularly consults for feedback on the rules and their implementation across the country.
  • Use of the crop in racing has fallen dramatically while stewards anecdotally have noted less rider interference in the stretch. From July to December 2022, crop rule violations occurred in four of every 1,000 starts, but that fell to 2.8 of every 1,000 starts from January to June 2023, indicating increasing compliance with the new crop rules.
  • The HISA Portal has been integrated with four leading software platforms used by horsemen, with more coming soon, in order to help racing participants stay in compliance with the rules and simplify the records-keeping process.
  • HISA has developed national data- and science-informed protocols previously absent in U.S. Thoroughbred racing, including a jockey concussion protocol.
  • HISA has undertaken a comprehensive education initiative to keep racing participants informed of the rules, and has provided additional information via updates to, infographics, handbooks, and instructional videos in English and Spanish available online and at racetracks.
  • HISA and HIWU personnel have met with horsemen at all racetracks operating under HISA’s jurisdiction to make formal presentations and directly answer questions.
  • HISA’s 24/7 help desk phone number (1-877-513-2919) and email address have fielded more than 51,000 calls and emails from industry participants since its launch last year, assisting racing participants in their efforts to learn and comply with HISA’s new systems and rules.
  • HISA’s accreditation team will have completed 10 official accreditation visits to racetracks by the end of this week to ensure their compliance with the Racetrack Safety rules. The on-site visits include best-practice assessments and educational training regarding reporting requirements.
  • Forty-six racetracks completed the initial Racetrack Safety Accreditation Audit as required by the Racetrack Safety Program.
  • HISA and HIWU have launched an anonymous tip line to assist in the enforcement of both HISA’s Racetrack Safety and ADMC Programs.
  • As of July 2, HIWU has tested nearly 9,900 horses, including post-race tests, out-of-competition tests, vets list tests, and claimed horses since launching on May 22.
  • HISA began compiling data from racetracks on a national scale that will be analyzed extensively, with the goal of eventually predicting and preventing equine injury.

In the year ahead, HISA will:

  • Complete open investigations into recent clusters of equine fatalities, inform the public of the results of those investigations, and take forward any actionable learnings as operational priorities moving forward.
  • Complete an ongoing review and revision process of the Racetrack Safety rules to amend and improve upon them, taking into effect constructive feedback from racing participants.
  • Launch a national initiative to support jockey mental wellness, a first in the sport.
  • Move forward with an in-depth study of furosemide as required by the HISA Act.
  • Continue to integrate with racing software platforms to help racing participants remain in compliance with the rules and simplify the records-keeping process.
  • Appoint a Continuing Education Manager to lead a new nationwide program to help racing participants better understand and comply with HISA regulations.
  • Introduce a national trainer’s exam to help ensure trainers’ understanding of and ability to comply with the rules.
  • Visit at least 18 more tracks for accreditation purposes throughout the remainder of 2023.

HISA’s programs are overseen by a dedicated team with more than 350 years of collective racing experience at racetracks, farms, state racing commissions, and industry organizations. HISA’s Board of Directors and Racetrack and ADMC Standing Committees are comprised of members from inside and outside the racing industry. The nine industry members boast a combined 367 years of experience in Thoroughbred racing.

Charles Scheeler, inaugural chair of the HISA board of directors
Photo: Courtesy DLA Piper Global Law Firm

Charles Scheeler

“HISA was given a clear mandate when Congress required that an independent regulatory body oversee safety and integrity in American Thoroughbred racing, and we’ve seen the considerable progress made in year one,” said HISA board of directors chair Charles Scheeler. “HISA will continue to work diligently to fulfil that mandate, to protect horses and jockeys and to ensure a fair, clean sport.”

This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.

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