The events of last Sunday at Tioga Downs as reported in Harness Racing Update earlier this week makes one thing clear; it is time we microchip our race horses. For those unfamiliar with what transpired, Roadside Delight, a horse that was in the stakes detention barn left the barn when it wasn't supposed to. There is some dispute depending on who you talk to as to what happened after that, but the net result was the horse was scratched and at least for now, trainer Richard Norman has been banned from Tioga and Vernon Downs.
Not being at Tioga Downs when the event occurred, it is not for me to comment on the events which occurred last Sunday, and quite honestly I am not going to debate what may or may have not occurred, but what may or may have not happened may have been determined if our race horses were microchipped and procedures were in place to scan horses as they go to and from the detention barn and race paddock. A horse reports to the race paddock or detention barn, their microchip would be scanned. A horse leaves the detention barn or race paddock, the microchip wold be scanned so the date and time would be logged. The horse steps on the track to go for a warm up mile or to race; it would be logged. If the horse leaves the paddock area to completely, it gets logged. Plain and simple, no dispute as to where the horse was or wasn't; the scanner tells the story.
If just for the above, microchipping may be a bit overkill. However, I am sure those who object to the whipping of a horse is probably not thrilled seeing a horse with seeing a horse freeze branded. Instead of physically marking a horse, as the horse goes out to the track, a hand held scanner would read the microchip to ensure the horse being walked on to the track to race is in fact the horse it is supposed to be. Eliminating the possibility a freeze brand is red incorrectly.
Lastly, if a horse is microchipped, it make it easier for a horse to be tracked if lost, stolen, or at auctions to ensure the horse being sold is the horse being advertised for sale. In the case of horse rescues, it will be easier to determine the identity of the horse when rescue groups are trying to decide which horses should be pulled out of horse sales.
It is time we implement new technology to protect the integrity of the sport and to meet modern sensibilities.