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New regulations for horse racing industry take effect

Jockeys and horses race at Churchill Downs on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby.
Jockeys and horses race at Churchill Downs on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby.

People involved in horse racing, including jockeys, trainers, owners and veterinarians, must now register with the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to continue participating in the sport.

Congress created the Authority in 2020 as part of the bipartisan Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. The first set of rules from the regulatory body, including the registration requirement, took effect on Friday.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the efforts of racing participants, industry organizations and track leadership across the country in helping us ensure that all relevant racing participants and horses are registered by July 1,” the Authority’s CEO Lisa Lazarus said in a statement.

More than 30,000 people had registered as of June 29, according to a news release. Of the 25 states the Authority oversees, 20 had reached an agreement to implement the new set of rules or were in the process of doing so.

Until the group was established, the horse racing industry did not have a uniform set of rules or a national oversight body.

The 2020 law received support from many Kentucky politicians, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr.

Animal rights groups, including Animal Wellness Action, have also supported the creation of the regulatory body.

“We are elated the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act’s effective date has finally arrived after six years of tireless lobbying in nearly a thousand meetings, and an additional eighteen months of waiting since the measure was signed into law in December of 2020 by President Trump,” said Animal Wellness Action executive director Marty Irby in a news release. “HISA is the industry's last chance to convince the betting public that horse racing is a legitimate sport.”

Irby said he hopes the Authority can focus on the “cheaters and horse abusers that have snubbed reform and rigged the system for decades.”

The organization has faced some pushback from people in the horse racing industry. 

Groups opposed to the Authority have filed two federal lawsuits that challenge its regulatory powers. Both lawsuits were dismissed and are pending appeal. 

Horse racing has dealt with a series of scandals in recent years over allegations of doping and abuse.

Hall-of-fame trainer Bob Baffert’s win at the 2021 Kentucky Derby was overturned after Medina Spirit tested positive for illegal steroids following the race. The horse died after a workout at Santa Anita Park in December. Several horse racing organizations, including Churchill Downs, have suspended Baffert.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is set to enact another set of rules regarding doping and medication in January, after approval from the Federal Trade Commission.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.