US Congress Passes Horseracing Bill

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

In these times of ultra-partisanship, in which political divisions result in total impasses on virtually every topic, many people have wondered what it would take to bring all the factions of our divided federal government together. At last, we have an answer: horseracing.


On Tuesday, September 29, the US Congress unanimously approved House Bill 1754, The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. The bill will now go over to the Senate, where it has great bi-partisan popular support.


Should it ultimately be approved, the bill will result in the formation of the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority. The bill will codify the rules for treating, training, and medicating racing horses. While recent events, such as the spate of horse deaths in 2019 at Santa Anita, spurred action on the legislation, it is actually the culmination of five years of effort on behalf of several legislators.


Key proponents of the House version of the bill include New York Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko and Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican from Kentucky. Both states are heavily vested in the horseracing industry. It's estimated that $5 billion is contributed to New York's economy annually through horseracing. The nation, as a whole, benefits to the tune of $26 billion from horseracing.


On the opposite side of Congress, Senators from Kentucky and New York are also among sponsors of pending legislation, along with co-authors from Arizona and California. The bill is still on track for passage by both houses in the 2020 legislative session.


The horseracing industry itself has expressed support for legislative efforts that would simplify life for trainers, veterinarians, and horsemen by enacting a standardized set of excepted equine medical procedures. Several racetrack owners and well-known trainers, as well as the Jockey Club, expressed their support for the bill, which enabled it to garner the truly surprising degree of bi-partisan support that it achieved.


For several decades there have been ongoing discussions among Jockey Club members about the treatment rules for racehorses that not only varied from state-to-state but often conflicted. There has long been a concern that medications can legally be prescribed to ponies that mask underlying health conditions and endanger the safety of horses and jockeys.

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), however, did not endorse the bill. This was due to the fact that Quarter Horses are particularly prone to EIPH or exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Lasix is the only drug available for managing this condition. The removal of this race day medication could be detrimental to many horses and the AQHA says there are still too many unanswered questions in regard to this bill. 


The passage of the bill was also applauded by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), which praised the law as being a positive step in demonstrating the integrity of horseracing in the nation to the American public. Horseracing in the United States provides approximately 500,000 jobs.

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