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Jockey Club safety committee to review racing health issues
Associated Press
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Published: 5/9/2008 12:29 AM

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NEW YORK -- The Jockey Club has formed a committee to study equine health, including track safety and the rules of racing, five days after the death of the filly Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby.

Ogden Mills Phipps, chairman of The Jockey Club, said Thursday that the committee would be asked to review every facet of equine health, ranging from breeding practices to medication, and to recommend actions to be taken by the horse industry to improve the health and safety of thoroughbreds.

The move by the 114-year-old Jockey Club, the breed registry for North American thoroughbreds, was praised by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

"The Thoroughbred Safety Committee is a major step that will provide the examination of the horse welfare and safety issues so badly needed in the wake of recent catastrophic injuries," said NTRA president Alex Waldrop. "Now, more than ever, no practice, policy or tradition is more important than those that best protect and promote the health of the thoroughbred athlete."

Eight Belles, the first filly since 1999 to run in the Derby, finished 4 3/4 lengths behind favorite Big Brown. Shortly after the finish line, she collapsed with two broken front ankles. The shocking scene reminded racing fans of Barbaro's horrific injury two years ago in the Preakness.

Though her death has sparked renewed interest in improving safety measures within the industry, some trainers remain wary of any quick fixes.

Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow said Thursday that while he supports "anything that would be safer for horses," he doesn't think synthetic surfaces such as the ones installed at tracks in California are the answer.

"You need good track superintendents," Dutrow said. "If they had good track superintendents, they wouldn't have to go to all these synthetic tracks (because) you'd have guys that would know what they're doing."

Reade Baker, trainer for Preakness entry Kentucky Bear, said while artificial surfaces "might be the thing of the future," they need more study. Baker said he'd prefer to see more stringent racing standards across the board.

"Everybody needs to be stricter," he said. "Vets need to scratch more horses than they do. Sometimes when you run horses in other jurisdictions, they get by in one and wouldn't get by in another."

Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian when Eight Belles was euthanized, is among seven people on the Thoroughbred Safety Committee.