Pimlico receives safety accreditation

Horse racing group had asked for some changes

May 11, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

Pimlico Race Course was given a stamp of approval Monday by an industry group after taking steps to conform with the group's standards related to drug testing and other procedures.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association said Pimlico has been fully accredited by its Safety and Integrity Alliance.

NTRA — which promotes safety at tracks around the nation — said Pimlico, the site of Saturday's Preakness, is the 17th course to be accredited. Others include Churchill Downs and Belmont Park, home of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, respectively.

The alliance examines everything from riding crops to the manner in which horses are tested for dozens of drugs.

Laurel Park has not yet been accredited.

"As far as I know, they [alliance officials] have not requested Laurel," said J. Michael Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission. "We wouldn't have a problem with it [an inspection]."

The alliance initially withheld final approval of Pimlico.

"They did a full inspection back in late April of '09," NTRA spokesman Eric Wing said. "There were certain areas of deficiency that precluded full accreditation, but those areas for the most part [involved] rules that the Maryland Racing Commission did not allow for."

Since last year, the Maryland Jockey Club has worked with the commission in several areas about which the alliance had expressed concern.

For example, the commission adopted a rule requiring the use of a cushioned riding crop in every race. The commission also approved random, out-of-competition drug testing on horses. Those new rules helped Pimlico win its accreditation.

Alliance approval is not a requirement for tracks to operate. "We don't have a formal stick," Wing said.

But Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, indicated that passing inspection was significant.

"It was our goal to affirm Pimlico's rightful place among tracks which have already undergone and passed this rigorous process," Chuckas said in a prepared statement. "We believe Pimlico and the entire Maryland racing community is now the better for it."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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