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Majority Leader McConnell Announces Bill to Help Make Horseracing Safer, Fairer, and More Transparent

August 31, 2020

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act and new independent Authority will aim to help protect the sport and the over 24,000 Kentucky workers who support it

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today at a press conference in Lexington, the Horse Capital of the World, 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, Senator 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 Senator McConnell and Congressman Barr for today’s 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,” said Senator McConnell.  

Also announced today 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. Senator McConnell’sHorseracing 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,” said Senator 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 said, “Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work and negotiation to develop uniform racing standards under one independent regulatory body. 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 said. “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 said, “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,” said 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,” said 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.”  

The Jockey Club Chairman continued, “We also applaud Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY) and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) for their support and devotion to horse racing and for introducing the original bill into the House and Senate. We will continue to work closely with Congressional co-sponsors, industry stakeholders and animal welfare organizations in our pursuit of national, uniform standards for drugs, medication, and safety in horse racing.”  

“Without federal legislation mandating that USADA enact ‘clean’ drug rules, reliable testing, qualified labs and strict penalties for violators, the sport of American horse racing faces an uncertain future,” said Staci Hancock, Managing Member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance.“With Senator McConnell’s leadership and the continued efforts of Representatives Andy Barr and Paul Tonko in the House, WHOA’s members look forward to the day when our great sport can rebuild its reputation, protect our beloved horses and their jockeys, and reclaim racing’s place as one of America’s top spectator sports.”  

Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Senate Majority Leader McConnell has stepped up to end widespread doping in American horseracing and to address racetrack safety, the key contributing factors to fatalities on American racetracks. We cannot continue to look the other way when a racehorse is severely injured or killed during training or a race. This measure will advance necessary reforms that will make or break horseracing in the United States.”