Stronach Takes Lead on Medication, Integrity Issues

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Frank Stronach Frank Stronach

(Editor’s Note: The following message from Frank Stronach was distributed by the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park, and Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is one of North America’s top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world’s largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies, and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; XpressBet, an internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horse racing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets. The Stronach Group is also a major producer of televised horse racing programming through its HRTV cable and satellite network.)

The Stronach Group has always been committed to ensuring that our horse racing businesses operate with integrity and concern for the health and safety of the horses and the people who work with them. Now, more than ever, we as track operators, horsemen and regulators must come together to do everything we can to prevent any abuse of our thoroughbred athletes. We must also work diligently to ban any individuals engaged in fraudulent or harmful activities from participating in our sport. The goal of these efforts is to achieve the highest standards with respect to the integrity of our sport and the safety of our athletes, both equine and human.

The Stronach Group is supportive of all initiatives that help achieve the goal of horses competing free from the influence of medication. We therefore fully support the horse racing industry’s first ever National Uniform Medication Program. The Program seeks to limit the number of therapeutic medications that are needed for the routine treatment of horses and sets medication thresholds and withdrawal time guidelines. The Program also provides penalty recommendations that specifically address repeat medication offenders. In order to be effective, these reforms must be adopted and implemented by all racing states no later than September 1st, 2014. If this deadline is not met, The Stronach Group will work together with other concerned industry stakeholders to begin aggressively lobbying for federal legislation containing the same reforms outlined in the proposed National Uniform Medication Program.

In addition to supporting the key principles of the National Uniform Medication Program, The Stronach Group is committed to implementing the following measures at all of our racetracks aimed at eliminating drug abuse and the mistreatment of horses:

–Creating a strictly regulated pharmacy to dispense all medications prescribed and administered on association property.

–Prohibiting anyone from having any medications in their possession unless those medications have been properly prescribed for a therapeutic treatment program.

–Instituting random spot checks of veterinarians and all personnel that have access to the horse.

–Automatic drug testing for all horses that ship-in to race.

–Establishing a program of random drug testing that can be administered at any time for all horses.

–Banning individuals found guilty of animal abuse from competing.

–Having the right to request all veterinarian records and have them examined by an independent team of veterinarians.

–Creating a shared database of all racing and training fatalities.

–Prohibiting the use of buzzers or other devices designed to manipulate or abuse horses.

–Providing horse ambulances and stalls fitted with special equipment to ensure the safe and humane movement of an injured horse in order to provide immediate care with the ultimate goal of rehabilitation.

We at The Stronach Group are committed to undertaking all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the horses and jockeys; I hope that these proposals will be endorsed by owners, trainers and veterinarians. To assist with the implementation of these proposals, we will immediately begin searching for an Equine Health and Safety Director who will report to a newly established Equine Health and Safety Board. The members of this new board will include owners, trainers, and veterinarians.

We owe it to the horses and the public, as well as to all of the hard-working and honest horsemen in our industry to implement these measures. As racetrack owners, we must continuously implement procedures that will enhance the integrity of this great sport, and look forward to working with all industry stakeholders to help fine-tune these proposals in order to bring about much-needed reform.

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  • Chad Kelly

    Now its getting interesting.

  • WelbourneStud

    Yes!

  • George Jetson

    so why did he let cibelli and navarro race at Gulfstream??

    • david

      I think Frank actually means well. It’s no excuse but he is pretty out of touch with what goes on on a day-to-day basis at his tracks.

      At some point Frank will be informed that virtually every drug trainer on the east coast raced at GP this winter and will probably fire someone for it. That seems to be his m.o.

      • Hamish

        Seems to be a reasonable point you are making.

      • Peyton Charles Lasiter

        I suggest the tracks are not going to regulate squat. That job has been given to state racing commissions which have failed terribly.

      • Sal Carcia

        I felt that Gulf was trying to control some of these high percentage types. The overall trainer win %s were pretty reasonable. Also, there did appear to be a lot of scratches from the high % types. Something was going on.

      • Bellwether

        Frank has a real good idea what’s going on… And what’s been going been going on in the past…You better believe that…He and others have been pushed in a corner and need to come out of it like a Pit Bull!!!….They have way to much invested and some even truly love “The Game”…”Long Live The King”…ty…

        • Beach

          If the SLEEPING GIANT needs to awaken, it should awaken.

  • Jessie Baker

    Why not build 2 or 3 equine swimming pools at each track mr stronach that would be excellent for the horses and reduce injury

    • Annie Oakley

      Swimming pools aren’t as good as Seawalkers…horses can bleed under the unnatural stress of swimming…All racetracks should have these, there are several in Newmarket, amazing!

      • Jay Stone

        Good idea Ann.

    • Gayle Meyers

      Hollywood Park (RIP) had one years ago…

  • anthony bell

    Well done.Own pharmacy on every track and they can issue prescriptions. This way everything is tracked on every horse and accounted for. I would go so far that the tracks should hire a full time vet and all vets report to him. No more cocktails.

    • Peyton Charles Lasiter

      I don’t think it is a good idea to have the tracks employ the new vet. They have a different agenda than the public, i.e. racing commissions(supposedly). Right now you got commissions with their vet, tracks(associations) which have their own existing vet, and stewards. These three entities are in charge of the game and it just has not worked. Owners, trainers, their vets and bettors fall in a lower group. Some new independent entity with authority needs to take the reins and kick people out of the sport.

    • Ben D’Antonio

      This is leadership, plain and simple. No threats are being made here, he’s only trying to rally the industry.
      I hope the other major players in horse racing can see how important it is for the sport to try and move as one on any and all critical issues. There will always be differences of opinion, but all involved in thoroughbred racing from horsemen, to track owners, to horseplayers need to have a voice and must identify, then admit, then discuss, and most importantly act upon the issues that have a negative impact on this sport.
      Good luck Mr. Stronach, thank you for being a leader in all major aspects of the sport we all care so much about.

    • circusticket

      That won’t take care of the horses that are training at training centers. What would stop vets from sneaking things in? Would they have to unload all their medications in their trucks before entering the track property? I can see lots of loopholes and if there’s a loophole, trainers and vets will take advantage.

  • renee

    So, if Oaklawn Park tells him their not interested in becoming part of his kingdom, he will hold all tracks hostage with his idle threat of Federal intervention? The rich just keep getting richer!
    FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!!!

  • PTP

    I’m ready to follow Frank into the center of the Sun.

    Pass the strudel.

    PTP

    • Sal Carcia

      Just remember to go at night. ☺

  • THE ENFORCER

    FRANK—WIN OVER THIS FAN BY MAKING GOOD ON YOUR INTEGRITY PROMISE–BUILD THE 50,000+
    GULFSTREAM PARK GRANDSTAND AS PROMISED BY BOTH YOU AND YOUR GM,TIM RITVO..

    YOU HAVE MADE OTHER GP PROMISES THAT HAVE NOT BEEN KEPT…YOUR INTEGRITY??

    GIVE US THE COMPLETION DATE-PLEASE..

    • Piquetour

      And take better care of his Md.tracks (Pimlico and Laurel) or sell them to someone LOCAL who has a stake in them.

      • Bellwether

        Amen…

  • Pony lover

    It’s never too late. I’ve been going to the track for over 30 years. I’ve seen my share of suspicious shenanigans. I’ve spent plenty of time with friends who own horses, sometimes even they can’t figure out how their horse loses 8-9 races in a row and all of a sudden win by 5 lenghts. Put this rules in ASAP and get rid of the “cheaters” for the horses sake.

  • Sal Carcia

    I hope Stronach follows through on these much needed measures. Ray P mentioned previously that Gulfstream already does out-of-competition testing.

  • Hamish

    Not certain that this National Uniform Medication Program for therapeutics should be given such weight as a cure all for racing’s ills, or that its state by state passage or failure should be used as the catalyst to act at some point in the future, but the private property rules that Mr. Stronach proposes seem to support the underlying objective to clean up the sport. Kicking this can down the road has not been effective thus far, so here’s hoping The Stronach Group and The Jockey Club coordinate efforts, sooner rather than later.

  • Jay Stone

    Sounds like the 800 pound gorilla in the room has made the first of many moves to try and clean up the game he loves. I have always thought that this would be the Legacy that he would want to have. It’s only a beginning but it’s a huge first step especially if other permit holders follow him. This gets interesting where Florida regulators are the biggest hurdle he faces. They need to put up or let the Feds control the game. This first strike will say a lot to many of his longtime detractors.

    • Hamish

      Agree with what you say. It is just a start to a lengthy process and a comprehensive solution.

  • wabstat

    I have muttered my share of unflattering things about Mr. Stronach, I’ll take it all back if he can effectively lead now.

    • Todd E.

      You have nothing to worry about. Just the latest move by Stronach to “look good” that will never materialize to anything.

  • Mimi Hunter

    I think it’s a start, but I would be a lot more impressed if he implemented the changes at his tracks first. Like ‘Follow these rules or find somewhere else to go.” I realize that this would be a very bold and chancy move, but almost appears to be the only way to go, and then go for industry wide rules.

  • Peyton Charles Lasiter

    If this man is a racetrack owner(licensee, franchisee,etc.) then in my opinion its like letting the fox patrol the hen house. Racetracks should not be in charge of dictating policy for publicly regulated sports. There was a reason that states set up racing commissions in the first place. To regulate and protect the public in accordance with the laws which allowed the sport. I agree they have generally failed that duty and need reorganizing or replacing, but don’t shift this authority to the racetracks. IMO

  • Tinky

    Let me suggest one additional step, Frank:

    Random checks of veterinarians’ stock, and if any substitutions are discovered (i.e. drugs other than what the labels indicate), the case and all evidence will be turned over to FEDERAL authorities.

    Otherwise, it would be far to easy for vets to acquire their meds at the designated pharmacy, and replace them with impunity when they are away from the grounds.

  • elkton stable

    This better be done with knowledge, skill, tact and common sense or it will be a messy fiasco.

  • Belinda W

    Finally I have complained about Stronach ever since he came out saying he favored this approach a while back, but yet watched Stronach horses race all the time on lasix. He was to me just another big guy breeder who claimed to breed superior horses but did nothing to go against the grain and actually backup the anecdotal well bred horse. Maybe now truly we do progress to let the best horse win.

  • Peyton Charles Lasiter

    The association of racing commissioners international already has recommended limits and penalties. I don’t see what’s much different from status quo in this broad brush statement. All these bullet points ( except maybe auto testing of all ship in horses and the new pharmacy) he makes are already covered in existing state regulations. They are not being enforced. Not by the tracks, not by the commissions, not by the stewards.

    • Tinky

      Really? Is this not different – in fact radically different – from the status quo?

      “Creating a strictly regulated pharmacy to dispense all medications prescribed and administered on association property.”

      • Peyton Charles Lasiter

        It’s a non issue. Be it different from any previous proposal or not. And I did note it is a new addition along with the ship in tests. BUT enforcement and penalization is the key to solving the problems under the existing system. Me thinks its probably better to tear down the existing and rebuild.

        • fb0252

          what “problems”, exactly, are you referring to?

  • togahombre

    he’s looking to the future,wisely so, but this will be alot tougher than manufacturing auto parts, he’ll be fighting horseman groups, veteranary groups and the very regulators that claim to be working on the same problems, he tried to get the private vets out of the barns on race day but the state paramutual commision stepped in and told him he was violating the horsemans rights

  • Jay

    Is there anything he has not taken the lead on, but has he ever accomplished anything of note in this industry? I think not.

    • Bellwether

      He and those in that corner have no other way out now…Its a fact that Frank has never taken the Bull by the horns but he and a bunch of others have been shooting us full of Bull over the years…Lets just see if this trend continues???…I for one think things are about to change for the better…Like it or not…ty…

  • Jay

    Please Frank, don’t let Andy write any more press releases.

  • sammyfrommiami

    AWESOME!

  • guest

    I don’t know why some people are so hellbent on getting the feds to intervene & regulate. They’ve made a mess of basically every thing they touch. Horse racing can (and should) fix itself without being screwed up by the feds.

    • Peyton Charles Lasiter

      How about at least 10 years of not doing the fix you mention. These individual state racing commissions are not doing their job.

      • fb0252

        what is the “job” you would have them do?

    • ginger2000

      Yeah they SHOULD. But they haven’t and they apparently won’t.

    • Bellwether

      Well they damn sure better get busy!!!…Period…

  • betterthannothing

    Nothing like an ultimatum, way to go Mr. Stronach! LOVE on-track pharmacies too but control of meds between pharmacies and horses will need to be seamless and like Jeff Blea, DVM said, the devil will be in the details… And those details will have to be great to keep the devil out. Surveillance cameras in stalls and tracking of horses would compliment those abuse prevention and integrity reforms. Most importantly, the ball is rolling and change is gathering steam each and every day. Truly something to celebrate for all horses and honest, caring horsemen!

  • Terri Z

    Mr. Stronach is trying to restore integrity in horse racing. And if anyone wants to view how he treats his own horses, he takes good care of his retirees. None of the horses that he personally owns end up in slaughterhouses. He even has had retired race horses have surgery to make them more comfortable; and I am speaking of geldings and not stallions.

  • Alexa Pilcher

    Big factory barns, and the sport of horse racing that I’m guessing everyone would prefer to see, just doesn’t jive. I’m waiting for one of these leaders to even bring up the subject. The very impersonal aspect of allowing hundreds of horses to supposedly be ‘trained’ by a single individual is another very disturbing element of the culture of horse racing and may be at the very root of the degradation of the sport. Very un-American I know, but I look forward to one day seeing this situation addressed, the flocking of big money owners who crowd into the barns with the stats, which winds up being self perpetuating by its very nature. Is there a way to stop that kind of monopoly so all those horses can be treated on a more individual basis as they previously were in history ?

  • stixnstones42

    Wouldn’t it be simpler to establish an Inquisition and just torture these bastards until they confess?

  • ginger2000

    Everything said by those advocating change is great. What Mr. Stronach says sounds good. But when is someone actually going to DO something? That is the question. Talk talk talk, it’s been going on for decades. Action is called for, which group will actually MAKE a change not talk about making a change?

  • venetian

    Maybe he should be more concerned about the unsafe race tracks in Fla than medications
    Palm Meadows was a death trap this winter

  • Bellwether

    Better late than never Frank…He had to make a move as he sees “The Game” being over run by Animal Abusers/Kill Buyers/Cheaters/Race Fixers and One Armed Bandit$…To name a few…”The Game” can stand on its own merits and thrive when the powers that be know HOW to PROMOTE IT to all ages and get rid of the CRIMINALS…ty…

  • Craig

    I like it…as a fan and bettor this is what I want to see more of…hats off to Mr. Stronach for this, let’s hope more will follow his lead!

  • Patricia Jones

    i will beloieve it when i see it integrity and stronach business’s don’t go together

  • Avid fan

    Great ideas for regulating equine medication. In my humble opinion Mr. Stronach should also look into regulating substance/medication use by the track leadership. Let’s clean it all up.

    • Beach

      In sum, it’s time to regulate the CARE, and not just the meds, although the meds are part of it. I’m sick of seeing or hearing about horses being trained or raced when they should be RESTING…nothing wrong with the correct, therapeutic, judicious use of meds, but meds should not be a mask or a substitute for resting when they should be RESTING. And if this can be done for a horse like Constitution, why can it not be done for ANY horse? I realize not everyone has big money but a way needs to be figured so that the powers-that-be(even if “the little guy”) are fair to ALL the animals.

      • ginger2000

        I agree. Or make the drug regulations truly strict. If the horse needs a joint injection, then he can’t race for 60 days. If he needs therapeutic medication then the OTHER requirements for healing of that issue must be followed. There has to be some “incentive” to not race unsound horses.

      • ginger2000

        By incentive, I mean punishment of course, because just wanting a sound horse seems too good to hope for.

        • Beach

          Full agreement. Plus, if one races an unsound horse, said horse(sadly) is either going to die or get more unsound. And how exactly does that win money or keep costs down?

  • Beach

    I admit up front I’m making a silly, fluffy statement on a serious thread, but I’d be so happy if HRTV started broadcasting in HD. Any plans?!!

  • Really?

    It will be interesting to see who will be making the money on the pharmaceutical sales. Anyone remember the streufex situation?

    To me this all seems fine. Testing ship ins will make no difference unless they test him off the van. They already assume they will be tested post race.

    The pharmacy better have EVERYTHING a vet would need to treat a horse in ANY emergency or they will face some serious liability issues.

    The only thing I saw that will make any difference is random out of competition testing. But what will the rules be? Many substances are legal if not found post race, so what happens if they are there out if competition? What about steroids that have a threshold? What if a horse is full of them 2 weeks out of a race? Is that legal? What about horses shipping from training centers who will now have an advantage (no medication police and no out of competition testing)?

  • SusanKayne

    Integrity issues???….Why is Mr. Stronach allowing Jaroslav Gold a contracted kill buyer with a Canadian slaughter plant to run his horses at the Stronach Group owned Pimlico? See ‘Runnin From Love’ (MD) R1 April 18, 2014. Gold is contracted with the same slaughter plant that slaughtered Adena Springs bred ‘Backstreet Bully’!

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