The HISA Newsletter
June 22, 2023
A few weeks ago, the 155th Belmont Stakes made history as the first Triple Crown race to be run under HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) Program, which is being implemented by the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU). HIWU’s investigative and testing teams were present in full force at Belmont and, as of today, have been operating for a full month. This means HISA is now 100% up and running, and we have the resources and expertise of our partners at HIWU and Drug Free Sport to ensure we’re operating a world class anti-doping program.
HIWU taking the reins of anti-doping enforcement nationwide marks a true turning point for this industry. The ADMC Program is off to a successful start, and I am confident that its uniform rules and processes, coupled with HIWU’s uniform sample collection protocols, test lab harmonization and investigatory power, will greatly enhance the safety and integrity of the sport in short order.
It goes without saying that this was a challenging Triple Crown season. However, the past two months have also provided some reasons for optimism. For the first time, we have a national authority overseeing equine safety. We have one regulatory body that can work with tracks and racing commissions around the country to bring in leading subject matter experts to examine and analyze the root causes of these problems and work to ensure safety moving forward.
HISA’s highest priority is and always will be the wellbeing of the equine and human athletes competing under our jurisdiction. The recent equine fatalities we’ve seen have left us all searching for answers, and we remain laser-focused on urgently working to better understand the causes of these devastating events.
We clearly still have much work to do, but for the first time, the sport has the tools, the data and the resources needed to really make a difference. What I’ve seen from leaders across this industry over the past few months is a true willingness to work together to get this right, strengthen health and safety and do what’s best for horses. This has been but a silver lining among tragedy, but I truly believe that with renewed focus and unity, we are changing racing forever and for the better.
Yours in racing,
HISA Announces Membership of Furosemide Advisory Committee
This week, HISA announced the members of an Advisory Committee which has been convened to oversee a three-year study on the use of furosemide (also known as “Lasix”) on horses during the 48-hour period before the start of a Covered Horserace, including the effect on equine health and the integrity of competition.
HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control Committee selected the Advisory Committee members based on the their relevant expertise. The Advisory Committee will oversee the process of issuing a Request for Proposal to conduct the research, reviewing grant applications from academic researchers and allocating grant funding for the study.
When the independent scientific research has been completed and published, it will be presented to the Advisory Committee who will then relay the findings and their recommendations to the HISA Board of Directors.
A full list of the Committee’s membership can be found here.
HISA Software Integrations
With all of HISA’s regulations now in full effect, we have finalized our integrations with the following racing software platforms to help racing participants remain in compliance with the rules and simplify the records-keeping process:
Hospital & Veterinary Management System (HVMS) is a veterinary practice management software for equine practices. Its integration with HISA enhances workflow, reduces duplicate entry of records, and aligns data to make information flow easier and quicker between veterinarians and HISA, saving time and mitigating input errors. Learn more here.
EquiTrace is a HISA-integrated mobile app that helps horsemen and racing participants, including trainers and veterinarians, reduce administrative paperwork and save time reporting medicines and procedures to HISA with or without a Bluetooth microchip scanner. Learn more here.
Integrated with HISA and free to use, EquiTAPS, an initiative of The Jockey Club InCompass Solutions, is a service for recording and reporting treatment and procedure records. EquiTAPS enables veterinarians, trainers and other treatment providers to report records to HISA as well as other appropriate jurisdictions. Learn more here.
Tlore, an invoicing/management service for Thoroughbreds, is now integrated with HISA. This software enables users to assign and remove responsible persons, make location changes, view eligibility to race, and add/remove attending veterinarians. TLore’s next integration phase will include vaccinations, deworming and Coggins compliance. Learn more here.
Wise Option’s HISA integration is designed to assist racetrack veterinarians in managing their practices more efficiently by streamlining operations and improving overall patient care. Wise Option is a comprehensive practice management cloud software that ensures it covers all the needs of equine professionals. Learn more here.
Thorovet is a cloud-based management system created for the always on-the-go equine veterinarian, designed to work on farm calls and away from WiFi. Thorovet has created three types of certificates that veterinarians can complete digitally or print and fill out by hand. These certificates can be submitted to HISA by email or fax and can be used to comply with Coggins, vaccines and health exam requirements. Learn more here.
HISA Recommends Suspension of Racing at Churchill Downs
In early June, HISA recommended to Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) that racing at Churchill Downs Racetrack be temporarily suspended to allow for additional comprehensive investigations into the cause of recent equine fatalities at the track; CDI agreed with and accepted this recommendation, moving racing to Ellis Park for the rest of its meet.
The investigations conducted by HISA, CDI and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) to date have not revealed any obvious or specific pattern connecting the recent deaths of 12 Thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs. Given that no cohesive explanation had been identified for this unusual cluster of fatalities, HISA recommended that racing be temporarily suspended to allow time to more clearly identify the factor(s) contributing to these fatalities as well as tangible interventions to prevent them in the future.
Prior to this recommendation, HISA convened a summit at Churchill Downs with veterinarians from the racetrack and the KHRC to review all veterinary information and conduct additional analysis. HISA also commissioned track surface expert Dennis Moore to conduct a review of the Churchill Downs Racetrack. HISA will continue to seek answers and work with everyone involved to ensure that horses are running safely at Churchill Downs again in the near future.
Jockeys’ Guild and HISA Convene First-of-its-Kind Jockey Mental Wellness Symposium
On May 23, the Jockeys’ Guild and HISA hosted a symposium at Keeneland to address the critical issue of jockey mental wellness and decide how the Thoroughbred industry can work together to advance the mental wellness of jockeys across the country. At the event, Jockeys’ Guild President and CEO Terry Meyocks and HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus were joined by retired jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva and former NFL player Randy Grimes, who shared their personal stories of struggles with mental wellness and addiction.
The results of a recent anonymous jockey survey were also shared at the event. The survey was conducted to evaluate jockeys’ mental wellness needs and to determine what kinds of resources and support services would be most impactful in strengthening their overall health and wellbeing. The Jockeys’ Guild, HISA and other industry groups are currently using the survey results and learnings to finalize a plan to develop and implement a network of resources to support rider mental wellness.
HISA and the Jockeys’ Guild plan to further advance this critical work at their next meeting planned for August 1 in Saratoga.
From the desk of Ben Mosier, Executive Director, Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit:
The last four weeks have represented the culmination of more than a year of planning and countless hours of preparation by the HIWU team to put forth the best national ADMC Program possible for Thoroughbred racing. It has been incredibly rewarding to see HISA’s ADMC Program get off the ground successfully. Through Sunday, June 18, HIWU-trained and certified sample collection personnel have collected samples from over 6,500 horses from more than 20 tracks nationwide. The samples are being analyzed by one of six approved laboratories, which are all testing for the same substances at the same levels. Furthermore, our anonymous whistleblower platforms are active, and our investigative staff have been reviewing the tips submitted to determine further action, when appropriate.
As Lisa mentioned above, the Belmont Stakes was the first Triple Crown race to be conducted under HISA’s ADMC Program. More than a dozen members of the HIWU team were on site at Belmont Park to assist operations, which included supporting the local sample collection personnel and investigators. The New York Racing Association has been a great partner with us, and we appreciate their collaboration to help make this historic race a success.
With our first month of enforcement now complete, I would like to remind industry participants that HIWU must follow specific public disclosure requirements when there are violations of the ADMC Program. In the case of a positive test for a Banned Substance, HIWU must publish the violation on our website upon the imposition of Provisional Suspensions to the Covered Person and Covered Horse. This will occur after HIWU receives the positive test result for the A Sample. For a positive test associated with a Controlled Medication, the violation will be published once the B Sample confirms the positive test or the Covered Person waives the right to test the B Sample. Non-presence cases (i.e., cases not involving a positive test) will be published after a Provisional Suspension is imposed on the Covered Person or a Charge Letter is served, whichever is earlier.
We expect that most cases will be public within weeks and resolved within a few months, which will be a welcome change from previous protocols.
HIWU recognizes the importance of continually offering education opportunities to help facilitate compliance among those impacted by the ADMC Program. In addition to HIWU’s Education & Resources page, our team is available to meet with stakeholders and/or industry groups in person or virtually. Groups who would like to request a meeting should contact Stephanie Jenson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With our busiest months still to come, my team and I are excited to continue enforcement across the country and to maintain our relationships with the stakeholders who have made our efforts possible, from state racing commissions, racetracks, and laboratories to horsemen, veterinarians, and stewards. I am confident that this Program will ultimately enhance the health and safety of our equine and human athletes while promoting a level playing field that benefits the sport’s honest participants.