The Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission reported Monday on the progress of its Equine Safety and Welfare Plan, a list of tangible steps intended to increase protections for horses racing at Pennsylvania's six tracks. The measures, which the commission began implementing Mar. 1, 2022, included an Integrity Hotline for reporting suspected illegal or unethical behavior.
“Early results from the hotline and other measures have been promising and reinforce the thorough consideration that went into developing the action plan,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, who chairs the commission. “Implementing the strategy will be a long-term effort. The commission is committed for the long haul to protecting the integrity of the sport and the safety and welfare of the horses and participants.”
The development of an equine fatality database was among the plan's 10 measures. Thoroughbred fatalities from Apr. 1-June 30 were 30 in 2021 and 17 in 2022. Fatalities to date in 2022 include 10 at Parx Racing in Philadelphia, five at Penn National in Dauphin County, and two at Presque Isle Downs in Erie County. Harness racing fatalities included three in 2021 and two during the same period in 2022–one at The Meadows in Washington County and one at Pocono Downs in Luzerne County.
Other new measures included an independent, third-party analysis of the racing surfaces at each track. No racing surface issues were flagged as a result of the analysis.
As a result of increased commission veterinary oversight of morning workouts, eight horses were placed on the veterinarians' list and deemed ineligible to race. As a result of enhanced post-race supervision and stricter criteria, 17 horses were placed on the veterinarians' list and six horses were retired from racing.
Five horses were deemed ineligible to race in Pennsylvania based on the new rule providing for the disqualification of any horse that finished 12 or more lengths behind the winner in five consecutive starts.
The Integrity Hotline received 51 calls from Mar. 1 through June 30. Every call is investigated and referred for action as warranted. Ten calls are pending investigation and 41 alleged issues have been closed. No fines or penalties have been issued as a result of issues alleged in calls.
Allegations at Thoroughbred tracks accounted for 32 calls, including unethical conduct by race officials and horsemen, use of illegal devices by a jockey, unethical treatment of horses, unauthorized ingress or egress by horses, wagering irregularities and monetary disputes.
Among 17 allegations made regarding standardbred race tracks were incorrect decisions by judges, unethical conduct by horsemen and training center officials, unethical treatment of horses, licensing concerns, and administration of performance-enhancing medications.
Two calls without a specific location included an allegation of unethical treatment of horses, and a question about standardbred racing.
Tips can be reported to the hotline anonymously at any time by leaving a detailed message at (717) 787-1942. More information about the Pennsylvania State Horseracing Commission can be found at agriculture.pa.gov.