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Monday, October 27, 2014

Ontario Introducing Sirens; What About Everyone Else?

As a result of a mishap at Flamboro Downs which resulted in a head-on collision of two horses after an accident, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) has ordered all tracks to have installed by January 1, 2015 a system using warning lights and a siren to be used in the event of an emergency which requires drivers to proceed with caution or to stop the race.  The rule takes effect once the equipment is installed.

While this rule only effects the Ontario racetracks, it should become the standard throughout Canada and the United States.  For American tracks, it should only require the installation of a siren as they are required to have warning lights around the track already which are to go on whenever there is an accident or a horse gets loose on the track.  We know tracks hate to refund wagers on a wholesale basis and horsemen hate to lose the opportunity to earn purse money, but that should not trump the health and safety of racing participants, both drivers and horses.  If that is not incentive enough, the last thing you want is coverage of another head-on collision; something which would give ammunition to those opposed to horse racing.

Horsemen associations can negotiate in their next contract a provision which calls for purse money to be split evenly among all horses which were still competitive when the race was stopped if the loss of purse money is an issue.  We can adopt the rule used in some European countries which calls for the remaining horses to return later on the card to contest the race if less than half the race was contested when it was stopped; that should satisfy those worried about refunding wagers for a race declared 'no contest'.

Of course, the question is will racing commissions become proactive in the other provinces and states to adopt either the ORC rule or a modified version which allows for a race to be restarted?  That remains to be seen.  But it shouldn't have to depend on commissions being proactive; horsemen and/or tracks should petition their commissions to enact some version of this rule and enact it using their emergency rule making powers instead of having to go through 6 months or more of review before they can approve it.  

It took a relatively high-profile accident to get Ontario to act.  It shouldn't require another such incident to happen before the rest of the industry follows their lead.  Now is the time to make this an industry-wide standard on both sides of the border.

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