Dan Ross

Q&A with USADA's Dr. Tessa Muir

Last month, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced that in Dr. Tessa Muir, it had plucked from foreign shores a new hire to head its equine program at a time when the agency plays an integral role in implementing the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), overhauling the industry's governing status quo. Before Muir joined the USADA staff roster, she had hopscotched her way up the industry ladder, from exercise rider to private veterinarian to head of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA)'s anti-doping program between 2013 and 2019. Her...

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What Will HISA Look Like?

We recently ran part one of our story on the challenges facing HISA. Today, we deal with lawsuits, adjudication, and more. This time next year, the machinery of horse racing in the U.S. may be almost a month into a radical system overhaul. But with scant few calendar pages between now and then, what do we know about how the cogs, wheels, and pulleys of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) will work together? To find out, the TDN reached out to Charles Scheeler, chair of the HISA board...

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Will HISA Be Ready in Time?

Part One of a Two-Part Series If the letter of the law is any reliable prognosticator, this time next year the United States horse racing industry will already be nearly a month into what promises to be a major realignment of the planets. With the official enactment of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) on the first of July, 2022, racing jurisdictions North and South, East and West will be bound by the same medication standards, safety rules, and enforcement mechanisms--a hallelujah for many who have long championed the...

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Dr. Rick Arthur Q&A: Part Two

After 15 years as California's equine medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur has stepped away from the post. A vocal proponent of tightened welfare practices in the sport, Arthur has spearheaded during his tenure a slew of equine safety reforms that have made California arguably the most stringent regulatory environment in the States. Arthur's forthrightness, however, has led to him staking out positions that have at times proven polarizing. The day after Arthur officially stepped down, he conducted a Q&A with the TDN, the first part of which can be seen...

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Dr. Rick Arthur Q&A: Part One

After 15 years as California's equine medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur has stepped away from the post. A long-time vocal champion, both in his home state and at the international level, of tightened welfare practices in the sport, Arthur has spearheaded a slew of precedent-setting medication and equine safety reforms in California. During those 15 years, Arthur has been at the helm of the industry's veterinary ship while California has navigated a series of tumultuous storms, including a benighted venture to switch from dirt to synthetic racetrack surfaces during the...

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Labor Reform in Washington: Could it Help Racing?

For many trainers around the country, their biggest practical worry from day to day isn't the patchwork quilt of medication rules and regulations, or the fear that one trainer has an unfair competitive edge over another, but whether they've enough grooms, hotwalkers and riders populating their barns to properly tend to the horses in their care. With fewer and fewer North Americans siphoning into horse racing, the sport has turned for relief, of course, with growing reliance on Central and South America--what has proven an increasingly tenuous stable of talent...

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CBD: Should It be Used on the Backstretch?

In March of 2018 when the ground around Ontario was frozen solid as a rock, Warren Byrne took a nasty spill. He had just hopped on a hot-headed unraced 3-year-old gelding when it took off blindly. Byrne was pitched onto the hard ground, breaking his upper arm--an extensive fracture that required a plate and seven screws. After the surgery, doctors warned Byrne that he was suffering bone-density issues from a medication he had long taken, describing the problem as being akin to early osteoporosis. He also reacted badly to the...

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Super Trainers in California: The Story in Numbers

Over the years, the rise of the so-called super trainer has prompted many a clutched pearl by virtue of a perceived monopoly on the sport. Anecdotally, it can certainly appear as though the same few names wield an outsized impact. But what does the data say? The TDN has crunched the numbers in California from 2007 onward. This is far from a comprehensive overview of the situation, and what emerges is a picture that can be viewed from multiple angles. On the one hand, the numbers suggest that the biggest...

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Political Climate in California

At the start of last month, a small cadre of animal rights protestors snuck onto the Golden Gate Fields racetrack, lay down with arms interlocked in pipes, and halted live racing--as well as a vaccination drive on facility grounds--until police intervention saw their removal. While the incident had a flash-in-the-pan quality, it had the corollary effect of reminding those within the sport here in the Golden State of the somewhat precarious position in which it still finds itself--an important part of the economic puzzle, employing tens of thousands, but one...

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2020 California Handle, Purses in Numbers

After a pandemic-stricken year in which ADW revenues hammered California industry coffers, the first month of 2021 brought with it a flurry of budgetary and purse account developments in response. First came the announcement from the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) that they had reached an agreement with TVG, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, The Stronach Group's 1/ST Racing, and NYRA to inject some $15 million into the purse fund over the course of two years. In response, a subsidiary of the gaming corporation Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI) filed a...

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Four-Year Jockey Injury Study Helps Plug Data Gaps

When Kelly Ryan, primary care sports medicine physician for Medstar Health and co-medical director for the Maryland Horsemen's Health Program, discusses with her peers in the sports medicine world her work attending to injured jockeys, she's often met with the sort of wide-eyed puzzlement usually reserved for rare finds. "Every single bad case that we have is almost one in a million--like no other sports medicine doctor has ever seen this type of injury before," Ryan said. "They're all very unique and every single one of them could be a...

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Integrated Racetrack Tester Next Step in Racetrack Safety

The definition of insanity, some smart person once said, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In a twist on that aphorism, Kaleb Dempsey, laboratory manager of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL), explained one recent afternoon how part of the problem with the way racetracks maintain their surfaces is that, by virtue of their tools, they have been restricted to doing the same things over and over and expecting the same kind of results. Which is where a new bespoke piece of equipment, currently...

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