(The Churchill Twin Spires / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Churchill Downs)
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martha McSally (R-AZ), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act today to help set national standards to promote fairness, increase safety, and help preserve Thoroughbred racing. At a press conference last week in Lexington, the Horse Capital of the World, Senator McConnell joined U.S. Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) and leading Kentucky stakeholders, including Keeneland, Churchill Downs Incorporated, Breeders’ Cup Limited, and the Jockey Club in announcing the introduction of the bill.
They also announced the launch of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, an independent, non-governmental regulatory body responsible for improving current regulations and bringing a new level of transparency. The Board will set national standards for track safety, anti-doping and medication rules, and lab protocols. Senators McConnell and Gillibrand’s bipartisan bill will provide federal recognition and enforcement power for the Board to enable them to develop uniform, baseline standards for Thoroughbred racing.
“It’s been a privilege throughout my Senate career to deliver for Kentucky’s signature horseracing industry and the workers who support it. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act we introduce today will help protect this sport for the future with uniform, national standards. Baseball, football, and other professional sports have a central regulatory authority, and Thoroughbred racing should too,” said Senator McConnell. “I am proud to join Senator Gillibrand, my colleague from another Triple Crown state, in introducing our bipartisan legislation, along with Senator McSally and Senator Feinstein. Together, we can make Thoroughbred racing as fair and as safe as possible. We owe nothing less to the jockeys, trainers, breeders, equine athletes, and fans.”
“Having grown up near the races at Saratoga Raceway, I know how important it is to protect horses at Saratoga and across the country. Congress must put an end to the harsh treatment of racehorses and solidify health and safety standards for both racehorses and racetracks,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m proud to work with Majority Leader McConnell on the bipartisan Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. This legislation will do the important work of creating an independent regulatory process tasked with implementing anti-doping and safety programs to help ensure health and safety in America’s historic horseracing industry.”
“The misuse of potentially dangerous substances in racehorses to boost performance harms horses and has led to numerous injuries and deaths,” said Senator McSally. “I have worked for years to protect racehorses against this abuse and uphold the integrity of the sport. I’m pleased to join Majority Leader McConnell and other bipartisan Senators to do just that by creating uniform racetrack safety standards that will better enforce anti-doping measures.”
“I’m pleased to join Leader McConnell in introducing a bill to finally establish uniform, nationwide standards to protect racehorses, jockeys and the integrity of the sport,” said Senator Feinstein. “Given the troubling number of racehorse deaths in recent years, this legislation is a step in the right direction, and I will continue working to ensure that increased safety standards, like those adopted in California, are applied nationally.”
U.S. Congressmen Andy Barr (KY-06) and Paul Tonko (NY-20) will sponsor identical legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Senator McConnell delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the introduction of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act:
“On Saturday, the world of sports once again revolved around my hometown of Louisville for the 146th Kentucky Derby.
“Like so many other events, the coronavirus made this year’s Derby look a little different.
“The race had already been postponed for only the second time in history. And none of the 150,000 spectators who normally fill Churchill Downs were there to sing My Old Kentucky Home.
“But the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports refused to be defeated. The Derby remains the longest continuously-held American sporting event. And this year’s Labor Day Derby proved worth the wait.
“The winning Thoroughbred, Authentic, outlasted a ferocious challenge from the favorite. I’d like to extend the Senate’s congratulations to the entire Hall of Fame team.
“This year’s Derby showed our great traditions can adapt to overcome any challenge. But our sport must be protected.
“I’ve been proud to stand up for Kentucky horseracing throughout my career.
“I introduced a check-off bill to promote the sport domestically. I assembled a coalition to open new markets in Japan and Hong Kong. I worked to make sure Internet regulation didn’t unduly restrict the racing industry. I’ve secured tax provisions to promote equine equity and grow investment in Kentucky.
“It’s been my privilege to deliver for this sport and Kentuckians behind it. Today, I’m introducing new legislation to keep it up.
“Because, unfortunately, the coronavirus isn’t Thoroughbred racing’s only challenge. In recent years, tragedies on the track, medication scandals, and an inconsistent patchwork of regulations have cast clouds over the future.
“A national publication’s editorial board even called for this sport to be abolished altogether.
“We needed action to protect the sport we love, defend our history, and the 24,000 Kentuckians who work in the Thoroughbred racing industry.
“So, in Lexington, Kentucky—the Horse Capital of the World—I announced with my friend Congressman Andy Barr that we’d found a way forward.
“Today, I will introduce the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act to recognize a uniform, national standard for Thoroughbred racing.
“Baseball, football, and other professional sports have a central regulatory authority. Thoroughbred racing should too.
“Some of the biggest names in the sport — Churchill Downs, Keeneland, the Breeders’ Cup, and the Jockey Club, just to name a few — are supporting our plan to provide federal recognition and enforcement power to an independent Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.
“The Board will be made up of both industry-selected and independent members. It will set national standards for track safety, anti-doping and medication practices, and lab protocols. This will make Thoroughbred racing as fair and as safe as possible.
“I’m proud to partner with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on this bipartisan legislation. New York is home to another leg of the Triple Crown.
“Their junior Senator has previously introduced similar legislation to protect our sport. I’m also glad to have the senior Senator for California and the junior Senator for Arizona as original co-sponsors on this bipartisan bill.
“Today, Congressmen Barr and Paul Tonko will present this legislation in the House.
“I’m grateful for Congressman Barr’s years of leadership on this issue, and I’m glad we are making bipartisan, bicameral progress with our bill.
“This way, when we can all return to the grandstands to watch Thoroughbreds round the final turn toward a thundering finish, we’ll be taking pride in a fair and safe race.”