Eric Hamelback

Drug Testing Under HISA: When Uniformity and Variability Collide

From an altitude of 10,000 feet, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA)'s mandated goal is a simple two-pronged affair. Uniformity in welfare and safety. Uniformity in drug testing. Over the past few months, the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU)--HISA's enforcement arm--has made several announcements that have peeled the curtain back on just how difficult the second part of that equation will be to accomplish. Internal reviews of the six HIWU-contracted laboratories uncovered different limits of detection in blood for diabetes drug Metformin and for benzoylecgonine (BZE), a metabolite...

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NYTHA President Nominee Q&A: Chad Summers

The position of New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NYTHA) president is up for grabs at a time of great upheaval for horse racing in the state. Belmont Park is poised to undergo a $455-million overhaul, after which Aqueduct is set to close its doors. Within a few years, horse racing in New York will look drastically different to what it looks like today. This is also a period of tremendous existential challenge for the sport, as evidenced by a recent 60 Minutes expose on the industry's doping problems. Among the...

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Fields Set for Next Saturday's $1-Million Claiming Crown at Fair Grounds

A total of 90 horses spread over eight races were entered Saturday for next Saturday's 25th Claiming Crown, to be held for the first time since 2011 at New Orleans' Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Trainer Mike Maker--whose all-time record 21 Claiming Crown victories include two last year at Churchill Downs--and Robertino Diodoro lead the way with seven entries apiece. For Maker, that includes four in the 12-horse $150,000 Claiming Crown Emerald at 1 1/16 miles on turf, headed by GI United Nations winner Therapist (Freud). Diodoro's trio in...

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HISA Proposes $80.9 Million 2024 Budget

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) has released its proposed budget for 2024, totaling $80.96 million, including $38.7 million earmarked for the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU), the drug testing arm of the federal program. The total fee assessments for the states and racetracks come out to $78.5 million, but available credits potentially bring that number down to $59.8 million. HISA's 2023 total budget was initially set at $72.5 million. That number was subsequently revised down to $66.4 million earlier this year. The proposed 2024 budget was issued...

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StrideSAFE Town Hall in Kentucky: “This Could Be the Answer Horsemen Are Looking For”

Last week, the research team associated with StrideSAFE--a biometric sensor mechanism capable of detecting minute changes in a horse's gait at high speed--announced that seven of eight horses that suffered catastrophic musculoskeletal cases at Churchill Downs during its most recent meet showed via post-race readouts abnormalities as soon as they left the starting gate. In a nearly two-hour town hall Monday morning, StrideSAFE founder David Lambert and Churchill Downs equine medical director Will Farmer dug into the details, discussing the findings from an ongoing study in Kentucky and fielding questions...

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National HBPA Issues Statement on HISA's Power to Suspend Racing

Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association on Monday released a statement on the organization's position on the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority's (HISA) power to suspend live racing. Recently a HISA offial indicated the regulatory body is considering a rule to allow it to shut down racetracks even without any welfare and safety violations. "The National HBPA supports a robust investigation of the tragic deaths at Churchill Downs," Hamelback said. "But at this point, no one has found any evidence of rules violations by...

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Claiming Crown Returns To Fair Grounds

The 2023 Claiming Crown will be staged for the first time since 2011 at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans on Saturday, Dec. 2, the National HBPA and the TOBA said in a joint release early on Thursday. The event will feature eight races totaling $1 million in base purses, headlined by the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel. Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National HBPA said, "The Claiming Crown was designed to celebrate our hard-knocking, unsung heroes of the turf. What better place--especially for our 25th running--than...

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Eric Hamelback: Now Is Not The Time To Go Low Or Assign Blame

National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback response to Gagliano's statement: While we will not respond in a tit-for-tat with The Jockey Club, we want to make one thing abundantly clear. That is to quote the Authority's own statement in response to these tragic deaths last week: "Churchill Downs has been cooperating with HISA since its inception and is in full compliance with our rules and processes." To suggest that these deaths were somehow attributable to the HBPA is simply wrong. HISA clearly stated in its own press release that Churchill Downs...

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Federal Judge Rules HISA Constitutional After Law's Rewrite

The revamped Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) statute that got signed into law back in December was judged to be constitutional late on Thursday by the Texas federal district judge handling the case on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. "Congress answered the call-identifying the three constitutional concerns that led the Fifth Circuit to hold HISA unconstitutional and rectifying each with the amendment," wrote United States District Court Judge James Wesley Hendrix in his May 4 order out of the Northern District of...

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Federal Judge in Texas Delays ADMC Thirty Days

A federal judge in Texas has issued a 30-day waiting period before the rules of HISA's Anti-Doping Medication and Control (ADMC) can take effect. Those rules initially went into effect Monday, Mar. 27, but will now be suspended until May 1. During the month of April, therefore, HISA will turn back the job of collecting samples and testing back to the states, said HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus on a Friday night media call. The ruling, issued Friday, was the latest in a long back-and-forth bitter struggle between pro-HISA and anti-HISA...

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Federal Bill To Replace HISA Reportedly In Pipeline

A federal bill aimed at replacing the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) with a regulatory system modeled around an interstate compact is reportedly in the pipeline. The president of the United States Trotting Association (USTA), Russell Williams, disclosed the news about the pending legislation Mar. 21 during a special meeting of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission (PHRC). Williams addressed the PHRC Tuesday just prior to the board voting in favor of entering into three nine-month agreements with the HISA Authority that pertain to the Racetrack Safety Program, the Horseracing...

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Trainers Speak Out on HISA at HBPA Conference

Edited Press Release The 2023 National HBPA Annual Conference closed with a lively discussion with three prominent horsemen who questioned the need, validity and overreach of federal legislation pitched as the so-called savior of racing while the industry heads into a challenging economic and logistical future. Bret Calhoun, Ron Faucheux and Jason Barkley participated in the Trainer's Talk panel moderated by multiple Eclipse Award-winning journalist and media specialist Jennie Rees and talked about everything from the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, challenges facing small to mid-sized stables, finding and keeping...

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