Working in partnership with the Arkansas Racing Commission and the Arkansas HBPA (Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association), Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort has announced, subject to legislative approval, a series of significant proposed safety and integrity enhancements planned for the 2021 racing season. Key provisions include the prohibition of Clenbuterol within 60 days of a race, reduction in the maximum amount of Lasix without specific approval, and the mandatory use of safety whips in races.
“We began working on these measures last spring,” said Oaklawn President Louis Cella. “We hosted a series of roundtable meetings with horsemen, regulators, racing officials, and our own management team where we asked a simple question: ‘What can we do to enhance the safety and integrity of our program?’.”
Cella said the effort resulted in about a dozen proposed rule and policy changes, some of which are unique in American Thoroughbred racing. The rule changes are currently making their way through the regulatory approval process in Arkansas and are expected to be finalized in advance of the start of the 2021 racing season, January 22.
“We could not have accomplished all of this without the strong partnership we have with our Racing Commission and our horsemen,” Cella said. “When it comes to integrity and safety, we are united.”
Some of the proposed rule or policy changes include:
• The use of Clenbuterol or any other beta2-agonist will not be allowed within 60 days prior to a race at Oaklawn, confirmed for the first time through hair testing.
• The maximum dosage of Lasix that can be administered has been reduced by 50% without specific approval of the State Veterinarian. Lasix is also prohibited in any 3-year-old stakes that awards points towards eligibility in the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. These are the Smarty Jones, Southwest (G3), Rebel (G2), and Arkansas Derby (G1) for horses pointing towards the Kentucky Derby. And the Martha Washington, Honeybee (G3), and Fantasy (G3) for horses pointing towards the Kentucky Oaks.
• The use of extracorporeal shock wave therapy, radial pulse wave therapy, or similar treatments will not be allowed within 30 days of a race. Also, shock wave equipment will not be allowed on Oaklawn’s grounds at any time.
• Trainer and veterinarian records must be made available upon request for review by the pre-race exam veterinarians.
• The only riding crops allowed during races will be the 360 Gentle Touch (360 GT), Pro-Cush or other similar riding crops approved by the stewards.
• Off-track training facilities in Arkansas will be asked to agree to abide by rules similar to rules that apply on-track.
• Horses will be required to be on the grounds at least 72 hours before races unless approved for late arrival. To facilitate this, entries will be scheduled at least four days prior to a race.
Cella said the timing for these safety and integrity enhancements is perfect. “Our racing program has become one of the elite racing programs in America with a projected average daily purse distribution of $700,000 a day in 2021,” he added. “In addition, we are close to completing a $100-million expansion project that will elevate the program even further. So the time for safety and integrity enhancements is now.”
One of the individuals who worked closely with Oaklawn and horsemen in the development of these measures was Alex Lieblong, Chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission. A horse owner himself, Lieblong said, “I applaud Oaklawn for taking these forward-thinking steps that will help solidify Oaklawn’s status as one of the premier racing destinations in the country. They have the full support of the Racing Commission.”
Another key participant was Bill Walmsley, president of the Arkansas HBPA. “We began these meetings in early 2020 and continued working through the summer and into the fall. While we do not endorse every change, we do not object to any of these changes. Overall, it has been a true partnership effort, and it demonstrates why Oaklawn, the Arkansas HBPA and the Arkansas Racing Commission enjoy what I believe is the strongest working relationship in the industry.”
Oaklawn’s 2021 season runs from Friday, Jan. 22 to Saturday, May 1. Stall applications are now available on www.oaklawn.com and are due Thursday, Nov. 5. The schedule features a total of 33 stakes worth $11,000,000 and will be highlighted by four $1 million stakes races – $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2), $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2), and $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) – and the richest purse structure in its 117-year history.
Located in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort has been one of the premier Thoroughbred racetracks in the country since 1904 – best known as the home of the annual $1 million Rebel Stakes and its signature annual $1 million Arkansas Derby. Additionally, Oaklawn offers simulcast racing year-round and Oaklawn Anywhere, an online pari-mutuel wagering app for AR residents. The state’s #1 tourist attraction also offers Vegas-style casino action with live table games, slots, video poker, high limits, and sports betting. Coming soon – a 200-room luxury hotel, state-of-the-art spa, pool, fitness, additional dining options, and a multi-purpose event center. www.Oaklawn.com, 1-800-OAKLAWN