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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Edited NYSRGB Release –The New York State Racing and Gaming Commission (NYSGC) issued clear regulations regarding racing and training at Belmont Park based on the Air Quality Index (AQI) Thursday afternoon, in light of the ongoing poor air quality due to the Canadian wildfires, according to a press release from Scott Palmer, the state’s Equine Medical Director. The press release reads:

“If the AQI is between 151 and 200, no horse will be allowed to workout or race unless their attending veterinarian certifies that the horse will not be adversely affected by the elevated AQI. If an entered horse evidenced a respiratory issue, the horse must be declared unfit and scratched without penalty.

Under present practice, the horse would be placed on the Veterinarian’s List when scratched. Horses declared fit to race must be closely scrutinized before and after racing to ensure that they are not experiencing clinical signs of respiratory distress. Pre-race examinations of association veterinarians should include auscultation of the lungs and airways.

“If the AQI reaches 201, no racing or training may be conducted,” the release said. “As stewards of the horse, we must do what we can to ensure their health and safety,” said Palmer in a statement. “Particulates in the atmosphere can build up in both horse and human respiratory systems causing serious health problems including irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract. Poor air quality can irritate pre-existing conditions, including asthma in people and recurrent airway obstruction, or heaves, in horses, as well as Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage.

High concentrations of smoke and particulates can cause persistent cough, nasal discharge, and wheezing, and increased effort to breathe and can alter the immune system.” The AQI is published by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and it considers the amount of particle pollution, ground-level ozone, and toxic gases (carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide) in the air. The AQI varies from location to location and changes throughout the day.

As of Thursday at noon, the AQI in Elmont, New York, where Belmont Park is located, was 151. New York Governor Kathy Hochul praised the Gaming Commission’s steps. “As New Yorkers continue to experience unhealthy air quality as a result of Canadian wildfires, we must all work to ensure that animals–including these peak-performance equine athletes–are protected,” Governor Hochul said. “The measures being implemented at tracks across New York State are effective steps to keep all those who participate in the sportsafe now and into the future.”

Wednesday, Hochul encouraged New Yorkers to postpone any outdoor activities in impacted regions until conditions improve. “Accordingly, the New York State Gaming Commission directed all tracks to stop all racing, training and workouts until further notice,” reads a statement from Hochul’s office. “The Gaming Commission continues to monitor air quality and rely on guidance from veterinary expertise to ensure any decision to resume racing is based solely in the best interest of the horse population.”

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