National Horsemens Group Speaks Out Against Proposed Drug Reforms for Racing

Posted on: January 19, 2020, 07:14h. 

Last updated on: January 20, 2020, 09:53h.

Last week, the group representing horsemen across the United States renewed its opposition to federal legislation that would nationalize horse racing regulations.

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has reiterated its opposition to drug reforms in horse racing, saying that the ban of race-day applications of Lasix may do maore harm than good. (Image:

In a video posted on social media, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) reiterated it opposes efforts to ban race-day medications for horses. They also oppose an initiative that would create a private, independent panel to oversee drug testing on thoroughbreds, standardbreds, and quarter horses nationwide.

Those are the main tenets of the Horseracing Integrity Act, bipartisan legislation sponsored by US Reps. Paul Tonko (D-New York) and Andy Barr (R-Kentucky) in the US House, and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Martha McSally in the Senate.

Folks, we have uniformity,” National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback said. “There’s a myth that every racing jurisdiction is different. That’s simply not true.”

The association also takes aim at other racing stakeholder groups that have joined the effort to pass the legislation in Congress.

Hamelback added that the use of Lasix on race days actually controls bleeding in horses and prevents injuries. That runs counter to animal rights groups and others who say the drug, which is banned outside of North America, helps mask other medications given to the horse.

Bill, Reforms Gaining Stakeholder Support

Support for the Horseracing Integrity Act has gained traction over the past year thanks in large part to the number of thoroughbreds that died at Santa Anita, one of the more prestigious tracks in the US.

Since December 2018, 42 horses have died at the track – including three over the weekend since the HBPA released its video.

The Stronach Group, the company that owns Santa Anita, has joined forces with Churchill Downs Inc., the New York Racing Association, and other major track owners and operators to create the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition. The group seeks to push reforms regarding medication rules, the use of riding crops, and the tracking of veterinary records.

In the wake of the deaths at Santa Anita, The Stronach Group has already begun implementing some safety measures, and some states have already passed regulations to ban race-day Lasix applications for all 2-year-old horses starting this year. Restrictions for older horses in stakes races would start next year.

Other stakeholders, including the Humane Society of the United States, the Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club, and the Meadowlands Racetrack, have formed the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI), which supports the Horseracing Integrity Act.

Marty Irby, the executive director for CHRI-member Animal Wellness Action, told that Congress has lost its patience and is ready to act. Already the House bill has more than enough sponsors to secure its passage in that Chamber.

“The American people will not continue to tolerate the deaths and abuse that comes with doping in our modern day society,” Irby said. “The obstructionists in the industry like Hamelback should take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves if they want to be remembered for cruelty to animals and bringing an end to American horseracing, or for saving horse lives and bringing integrity back to the sport. If horseracing ceases to exist, they will only be able to blame themselves.”

California Board Meeting This Week

After not having a fatality since New Year’s Day, the Southern California track endured one of its worst weekends since the rash of fatalities began. Two geldings were put down after sustaining injuries in races on Friday and Saturday, and according to animal welfare advocates PETA, another horse died while training Sunday.

The organization called on the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to use its authority to suspend racing.

The CHRB will meet on Wednesday in Sacramento, and while Santa Anita itself is not on the agenda, several safety reform measures are on the docket.

In addition, the board discussed at its Nov. 21 meeting the state law giving it the power to suspend racing during a meet. The CHRB unanimously approved a motion for a 45-day public comment period as a first step for it to permanently adopt the state law as part of its rules.