PA Racing Officials Aim To Meet HISA Safety Goals On Their Own Terms

State commission says it's acting to improve track safety as sought by July 1
thoroughbred racehorses
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The Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission has notified a new federal entity overseeing thoroughbred racing that it will take multiple steps designed to improve safety at three tracks, even if the state agency can’t sign on to a specific agreement that had been sought.

The commissioners voted at their monthly meeting Tuesday to ratify a letter sent last week to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority by Thomas Chuckas, director of the commission’s Thoroughbred Horse Racing Bureau. In the letter, he outlined actions designed to conform with improvements sought by the authority, which was created by Congress under the 2020 HISA Act in the wake of heightened concerns across the nation about thoroughbred fatalities and track safety.

Chuckas and PSHRC members have commented at several meetings this year that they agree with HISA’s goals, but that the manner in which the authority is expecting states to comply with them has been inefficient and impractical. Chuckas explained Tuesday that there’s a need to strike the right balance between meeting HISA’s expectations and “what’s in the best interest of Pennsylvania racing.”

The Pennsylvania commission in April rejected the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s request for it to collect fees to cover implementation of HISA costs, and last month the commission tabled action on a proposed agreement sent by the authority covering how the state would comply with other HISA aspects.

Still, the letter written by Chuckas June 22 and affirmed by the commission Tuesday emphasizes various steps the officials believe meet HISA’s goals.

“The PSHRC has determined and notified the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority … that the PSHRC is unable to execute the Voluntary Implementation Agreement as presented by the Authority,” the letter states. “Nevertheless, the PSHRC intends to partner with the Authority to enforce approved rules and regulations under HISA intended for Pennsylvania racing participants at Pennsylvania’s three (3) duly licensed thoroughbred racetrack facilities.”

Parx, Penn National, Presque Isle Downs impacted

The three tracks facing HISA mandates are at Parx Casino, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, and Presque Isle Downs & Casino. The letter names veterinarians at each of the tracks who will serve as PSHRC co-safety directors and chief regulatory veterinarians ensuring safety standards and procedures are followed. It also names stewards at each of the tracks to oversee enforcement of safety regulations.

The commission also pledged to develop a new regulation regarding alcohol and drug testing for jockeys and to direct the racetracks to implement a concussion management program for the jockeys.

Those are among the safety improvements accompanying the July 1 effective date of the HISA Racetrack Safety Program, while the law’s other requirements in the form of an Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program are to take effect Jan. 1.

Photo: Shutterstock

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