Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Aug. 31 at a press conference in Lexington, Ky., his plans to introduce legislation in the U.S. Senate to help set national standards to promote fairness, increase safety, and help preserve Thoroughbred racing. The McConnell bill, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, will be introduced in September following the state-work-period. U.S. Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) will introduce the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Because of Kentucky’s leading role in this sport, Sen. McConnell brought Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club, and other industry leaders together earlier this year to develop a solution to the challenges facing horseracing. A number of them joined Sen. McConnell and Congressman Barr for the major announcement: Keeneland President & CEO Bill Thomason, Keeneland President & CEO-Elect Shannon Arvin, Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO William “Bill” C. Carstanjen, Breeders’ Cup President & CEO Drew Fleming, and The Jockey Club Vice Chairman William “Bill” M. Lear Jr.
“I’m proud to be joined by prominent horseracing leaders in Kentucky as they take the courageous step to increase nationwide safety standards for horses, jockeys, trainers, breeders, and fans. I’m grateful to Congressman Andy Barr for his strong leadership on this important issue,” says McConnell.
Also announced Aug. 31 was the launch of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which will be an independent, non-governmental regulatory body responsible for improving current regulations bringing a new level of transparency. This Authority will also address medication use, track conditions and other safety standards to protect equine athletes. McConnell’s Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will provide federal recognition and enforcement power for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to develop uniform, baseline standards for horseracing.
“Kentucky is proud of our distinct horseracing traditions. We must address the challenges the sport faces so we can preserve our heritage and the jobs of over 24,000 Kentuckians who support it,” says McConnell. “As Senate Majority Leader, I look forward to working with Congressman Barr and our colleagues across the aisle on our legislation to give federal recognition to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. Together, we can better protect every competitor and give each of them a fair shot at the Winner’s Circle.”
Congressman Barr adds, “The future of the sport depends on fair competition, a level playing field across state lines, as well as the safety and welfare of our equine and human athletes. Now is the time for the horseracing industry to embrace change that will attract a new generation of fans and solidify the future of this special sport. I want to thank Leader McConnell for his partnership on this effort and I look forward to moving this legislation across the finish line.”
“This groundbreaking legislation and the collaborative effort behind it speaks to the commitment those of us in the Thoroughbred industry have to establish uniform safety and integrity standards across the U.S. and bring American racing in line with international guidelines,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason says. “We applaud the leadership of Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr, who share our passion for horse racing and a dedication to strengthening the future of this great sport.”
Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO William “Bill” C. Carstanjen adds, “It is critical to the future of Thoroughbred racing that the safety and integrity of our sport be governed by world-class, uniform standards across the United States. The leadership of Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr has been instrumental in our shared goal of bringing the Thoroughbred industry together to achieve this goal.”
“This legislation gives us an opportunity to make the single most significant and far-reaching safety and integrity enhancement in the history of Thoroughbred racing by bringing our sport into the 21st century and protecting its future for generations to come,” says Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited. “While there is more work to do both in Congress and in the racing community, we are now on the path to a safer and more transparent sport thanks to Senator McConnell’s leadership and ability to bring people together around this important non-partisan issue. It has been a privilege to work with Congressman Andy Barr, my Chairman Fred Hertrich and my trusted counterparts at Churchill Downs and The Jockey Club, among many others, to contribute to this initiative for the betterment of our industry.”
“The Jockey Club has long pursued a collaborative solution within our industry to establish national reforms ensuring clean competition and improved safety for horses and humans alike. We express our sincere thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and organizations such as Breeders’ Cup, Churchill Downs Inc., Keeneland, New York Racing Association, and The Stronach Group for working so closely with us on this legislation,” says Stuart S. Janney III, Chairman, The Jockey Club. “We strongly believe that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is vital to developing uniform and effective medication and safety regulations that will enhance the integrity and safety of American horse racing and improve the sport.”