Aqueduct Racetrack’s 4th Floor Turf & Field Club was the location for Day 2 of the Organization of Racing Investigators. No wet sails…when the schedule caught the wind on the last day. The variety of topics ranged from equine-related veterinary health, including pre-race joint treatments, to how to efficiently implement microchipping and a digital certificate program. Participants were again presented with a potent mix of data and anecdotal evidence that was both informative and combined with a healthy dose of persuasion. When the meeting concludes with their annual business meeting, attendees can return to their own places armed with a wealth of best practices and, perhaps most importantly, a deck of cards connecting to a cadre of experience. All they have to do, whatever the incident, is pick up the phone.
On Tuesday 29th March it was the Jockey Club’s turn to take the lead. Kristen Werner, senior counsel for the company, began with a speech that touched on a variety of important issues. She explained that the Jockey Club is still more than just a stud registry; In fact, its safety, welfare, and aftercare initiatives are very diverse and extensive. Her power point outlined how her employer continues to be fully committed to the horse, the sport and the business. Over the last 2 decades, The Jockey Club has attempted to lead a diverse industry when it comes to racetrack safety, horse injury reporting and the effective building of proprietary statistical databases. Tracks, in turn, can meaningfully access this information. Werner comes from quite a diverse background, starting with this clearinghouse as a student in her days at the University of Kentucky. She spoke passionately about “aftercare” for retired racehorses and implored investigators to use the resources at their disposal, such as Thoroughbred Connect and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. As she put it bluntly, “Looking back 10 years ago I would not have seen the future of a Thoroughbred horse as positively after the race as I do now.” Resources…
Speaking of which… The next few speakers, both from the Thoroughbred Racing Protection Bureau (TRPB), drew attention to the importance of understanding digital microchips and certificates. Both Teena Appleby and Rachael Mant went straight to the complicated process of “chipping” 51,000 Thoroughbreds at 77 locations since 2019 with just 58 technicians… oh, and most of the time there was a pandemic going on. Luckily, as these two flexible agents recounted, Zoom meetings and patience helped win the day. By using the latest digital platform technology and linking a simple smartphone to an app, the necessary data and images to accurately identify a horse can be easily provided. Away from the old tattoo system, tracks can now scan and edit profiles to reflect changes they discover in each horseman. To hear Appleby say, “The goal is to make sure the technicians have all the resources they need and the right training to put the right horse in the right place.” One of the biggest obstacles is having more than 1 chip implanted in a given athlete. Mant informed contestants that they “found up to 6 chips in a runner,” indicating a lack of proper oversite. Best practices result in an increase in the possibility of creating a fair game…
Just before the lunch break, those present received a series of statements on two seemingly very different subjects. However, they are not as dissimilar as you might think. Both Leesa Johnson of the New Mexico Racing Commission and Richard Schosberg, the president of Take2/Take the Lead in New York, were based on the idea that the best possible care for the horse precedes everything else. Johnson’s presentation addressed how circuits can streamline their in-competition and out-of-competition testing. Your investigative team is particularly sensitive when it comes to observing a horse on its way from paddock to post. Signs like dropping a jockey, scratching from a race, and even fractious behavior in gate can easily lead to a trip to the test stable. Tracking a horse’s progress and even looking at owners’ histories of bad practices are excellent ways to root out problems before an animal becomes injured. Schosberg is also committed to the protection of racehorses, but his focus is on “aftercare”. Both Take2 and Take the Lead are organizations that “screen” potential owners and find ways to “put” Thoroughbreds in situations ranging from a “good home” to a “second purpose in life.” As a trainer, breeder and passionate advocate of the lifeblood of sport, Schosberg discussed how the “health” (not the “lameness”) tests can provide insight into where a horse’s health lies. Consulting surgeons and many others try to prepare a former runner for his next life. He went on to share a number of numbers and it is evident that the New York Racing Association continues to support initiatives like this – with a budget of $300,000. Nonetheless, private donations from former trainers, owners and jockeys are an integral part of the survival of this great line of programs.
To conclude ORI ’22, 3 New York-based presenters continued the theme of existing investigator resources. First, Dr. Scott Palmer of the New York State Gaming Commission for a more concerted effort to address the problem of pre-race joint treatments in Thoroughbreds. His wealth of experience over an impressive career has taught him, “People make imperfect decisions based on a total disregard of facts.” In other words, inventing truths can be utterly limiting, and the result only harms the horses that make this industry great do. dr Palmer offered a unique perspective when it came to the descriptive term…lameness. “It’s a matter of perspective,” he reminded participants, “I think it’s subjective and depends on how you look at a particular problem.” So there can be a number of reasons, such as: B. a gait disorder, but the main point is that the only way to find out what is wrong is with an effective diagnosis. Because the joints are so tiny, there’s room for blunders, and Dr. Palmer urged investigators to make sure owners, trainers, and veterinarians don’t develop bad habits when it comes to therapeutic procedures.
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Two NYRA representatives then delivered an informative series of sessions on how attendees can use the media effectively and how local providers specifically support health and well-being, particularly when it comes to jockey concussion. The former theme was led by NYRA Communications frontman Keith McCalmont. He gave a sensible talk on how investigators and publicists could work together for a stronger future. Rather than seeing each other as adversaries, training and deepening understanding of sensitive issues could go a long way in ensuring public responses unfold smoothly. As for the latter presentation, it was Premise Health’s Patricia Morrison who vigorously kick-started the discussion as she explained her role as NYRA’s on-site health professional. Morrison is tasked with solving any medical problems that might arise within the walls of a NYRA racetrack like Aqueduct. Her expertise leads her to take on those riders who audaciously want to compete at any time, even when a serious injury (like a concussion) could be at hand. She made it clear: “We are working closely with investigators to make this circuit as safe as possible by conducting a variety of assessments on a daily basis.” With rest and recuperation being her primary concern, she regularly works with the colony to uncover problems before they derail a career. Whether it’s keeping an eye on a jockey’s weight or making the difficult decision to take an injured rider to a hospital, Morrison is a proponent of keeping everyone safe at every race. If a jockey comes back early or covers up an injury, it can have disastrous consequences for the entire field.
Finally, with the agenda concluded, the Organization of Racing Investigators turned to internal affairs, thanking Chairman Jean Claude Jaramillo for his adept planning and troubleshooting skills. A business meeting was held and new board members were appointed. These included Ashley Leary and Merlinda Gonzalez. Congratulations are in order… Also on the ORI board is JN Campbell, who will serve as the group’s communications director. Campbell, a North American-based precinct clerk at Gaming USA (Horseracing.net/us), will handle all press releases and correspondence both inside and outside the organization.
2022–2023 ORI Board
Chairman…Juan Estrada, Arizona Department of Gaming
Vice Chairman…Jason Klouser, Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission
Immediate Past Chairman…Jean Claude Jaramillo, New York Racing Association
Secretary…Ashley Leary, formerly of the Colorado Racing Commission
Treasurer… Don Ahrens, Sam Houston Race Park
Sergeant-at-Arms … Leasa Johnson, New Mexico Racing Commission
Western US Representative…Mike Kilpack, National Thoroughbred Racing Association
Eastern US Representatives…Lance Morell, Parx Casino and Racetrack
Central US Representative…Merlinda Gonzalez, Lone Star Park
Canadian Representative…Tyler Durand, Ontario Alcohol and Gambling Commission
International Representative… Chris Gordon, Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board
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