KENTUCKY — Tucked away more than 5,000 pages into the new government spending bill is a sweeping proposal to overhaul horseracing standards.

What You Need To Know

  • Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act creates nationwide standard for horse safety

  • Also creates commission to oversee new rules

  • Animal advocacy groups, Churchill Downs, others voice approval for the bill

The Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act does a few things: it creates a set of rules for drug testing every single state has to abide by, it creates a standard for safety protocols at the racetrack, and it creates a commission to oversee the new rules, which are now more in line with international standards.

Chauncey Morris with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association said it’s an impressive bill.

“Racehorse owners, people that bet on horse racing, trainers, jockeys, all of us for decades have always been trying to get to a point to where we have uniformity in lab standards, testing, and penalties,” Morris said. “That bill does this.”

Morris also credits Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the bill’s primary supporters, with strengthening the rules as negotiations went on.

“There will be standards that have to do beyond drug testing that will be on track surfaces, handling of horses on the backstretch, that will ensure that we try to keep our equine athletes as safe and healthy as possible,” Morris said.

Animal advocacy groups also support the bill.

Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said he likes it because it bans the use of diuretic drugs on race day. Those are drugs that allow horses to shed water weight but could also damage their bones.

“None of the drugs that enhance a horse’s performance are beneficial to the horse, they’re only beneficial to the horse running faster in the immediate window that’s in front of them,” Irby said. “So this is something that really helps promote the long-term health of the horse, sustainability, and viability of that horse to continue running and racing, and having an after-life, a career after horse racing.

In a statement, McConnell said he’s proud the Senate has agreed to preserve Kentucky’s signature racing industry.

“Kentucky’s cherished horseracing traditions deserve to be protected,” McConnell said.

Rep. Andy Barr (R, Lexington) is one of the primary sponsors in the House, which passed a version of the bill in September.

“For almost a decade, I have worked with industry stakeholders and my Congressional colleagues to build consensus around reforms that will protect equine athletes and strengthen confidence and international competitiveness in the sport,” Barr said.

Churchill Downs, Keeneland, the Breeders’ Cup, and other horseracing groups also voiced approval for the bill.