Open Letter To The Industry: Lisa Lazarus

Lisa Lazarus | The Jockey Club

Dear Thoroughbred racing participants,

HISA's most important mission is to protect the health and wellbeing of the horses participating in Thoroughbred racing. Over the past few months, the challenges of that mission–and the critical importance of it–have never been more apparent.

The events at Churchill Downs, Laurel Park and Saratoga Race Course this spring and summer were a sobering reminder that we must further prioritize creating a culture of safety and an ecosystem of care that takes into account all factors contributing to equine fatalities. And it is the responsibility of all racing participants to do their part.

HISA's investigation into the circumstances surrounding equine fatalities at Churchill Downs earlier this year did not identify any singular explanation for the fatalities, despite extensive investigation and analysis of the track surface, veterinary records, necropsies and whether any rule violations occurred. The absence of a singular explanation underscores the urgent need for further action and analysis to mitigate risk stemming from several factors potentially contributing to equine fatalities. HISA's full report on the findings was released publicly last week and can be found here.

HISA's strategic recommendations and next steps moving forward–also announced last week–include the following:

  • A sophisticated data analysis effort to explore critical questions facing the sport to yield new, actionable insights, made possible by uniform reporting requirements under HISA.
  • The creation of a committee to work toward the study and ultimate introduction of more synthetic surface options in Thoroughbred racing.
  • Improved veterinary screening and diagnostic procedures, including:

–Making PET scans more accessible to racetracks across the country;

–Conducting a research study to examine the causes of exercise-associated sudden deaths;

–Further use of wearable technology as an injury detection tool;

–An examination of whether there are any other equine fitness tools worthy of investment and deployment

HISA has also formed a new Track Surface Advisory Group comprised of seasoned track superintendents to assist in surface analysis and make recommendations on an ongoing basis.

This moment is and should be a turning point for our sport. It is essential that all corners of the racing world come together to do their part to reduce equine fatalities and protect these magnificent athletes.

HISA is grateful for the work of everyone involved in the sport whose job it is to protect the health and wellbeing of Thoroughbreds. We know that you share in our cause and that together, we can make racing the safest, and best, version of itself.

Yours in racing, Lisa Lazarus

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