Security at Pimlico's historic Preakness barn will be heightened this year, a move that comes amid renewed concern about doping and horse safety in the sport.
All visitors, including veterinarians, who want to spend time with horses scheduled to run in this year's Preakness will have to sign in at the barn off Winner Avenue, which will have just one entrance.
Those new measures, adopted by the Maryland Racing Commission and Pimlico ownership, come in addition to surveillance measures and syringe-collection practices already in place for the second leg of the Triple Crown, scheduled to be run May 18 this year.
While many of the security measures to be used at Pimlico were precursors to recent rule changes in New York and Kentucky, officials acknowledge there's a hole in Maryland's policy. While they often arrive early, horses are not required to report to Pimlico any earlier than the day of the Preakness and could therefore avoid monitoring.
Horses running in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont must be in their barns at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park by noon on the Wednesday before the weekend races.
Mike Gathagan, a spokesman for the Maryland Jockey Club, said the Pimlico ownership group considered enacting a similar rule but chose not to. Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, said the state may change its rule if confronted with the possibility of a Preakness contender's not reporting by Thursday, when the heightened monitoring goes into effect.
"We're still figuring out how we'd handle that," he said.
Pimlico has long sequestered most of the horses entered in the Preakness and other stakes races that week in two special barns located not far from the grandstand. Both have security cameras installed.
The arrangement has allowed fans to easily visit the horses, and has also been a solution to Pimlico's lack of stables.
Churchill Downs and Belmont — the two courses that host the Triple Crown races sandwiching the Preakness — have sprawling barn areas and adequate room for visiting horsemen to move into stall areas where they could run their operations as they would at their home track.
Trainer Doug O'Neill's win at the Preakness last year, with I'll Have Another, prompted New York racing officials to create a detention barn where Belmont horses were housed and watched. O'Neill's other horses have failed multiple performance-enhancing drug tests over the past 10 years.
But trainers detested the crowded barn area, saying it made it impossible to keep their routines and endangered the horses.
Horses running in subsequent major stakes races in New York have been able to stay in their own barns, but were subject to surveillance in the 72 hours before those races. California's Santa Anita Park, which like Pimlico is owned by the Stronach Group, announced plans to enact similar rules.
Churchill Downs recently announced new rules that will require people visiting Kentucky Derby horses within 72 hours of the race to sign in, and that all syringes used on horses be collected for testing.
"We're trying to have everything bulletproof," Kentucky Horse Racing Commission chairman John Ward told The New York Times. "We want people to understand that we are doing everything we can to be transparent and present a clean and safely run race to a casual fan who tunes in for the spectacle, as well as our betting customers."
At Pimlico, veterinarians must submit treatment plans for all horses running in stakes races during Preakness weekend. They also must contact a representative of the state racing commission and describe any planned treatment before administering it.
Blood is drawn from those horses near race time and tested.
"We're constantly working to ensure the safety of the horse," Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas said. "We've had some of these things in place, but we're always looking to improve on what we're doing."
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