Congress schedules hearing on injuries

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- A congressional subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for next week on the safety of thoroughbred racehorses that will look at breeding, drugs and other issues raised after Eight Belles was euthanized at the Kentucky Derby.

Among the representatives of the sport to be questioned at the Thursday hearing are Rick Dutrow, the trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. Dutrow told reporters before the Preakness that his horses were periodically given steroids.

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection wants to look at how many horses are breaking down at tracks and study the reasons.

"While catastrophic injuries of thoroughbred racehorses on the track are not a new phenomenon in the sport, the public demise of Eight Belles and Barbaro may be symptomatic of a larger problem," the subcommittee said in a May 22 letter to industry officials.

The subcommittee, led by Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush and Kentucky Republican Ed Whitfield, requested information last month from, among others, Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course.

In a May letter, the panel asked Magna how many horses have suffered injuries on Magna-owned tracks and whether the company would support a comprehensive database to review and study track-related thoroughbred injuries.

Bill Ford, a Magna senior counsel, said in an interview that the company cooperated with the subcommittee by sending its responses to Washington. Ford declined to share those responses yesterday.

The Sun reported the scheduling of the hearing online yesterday. The subcommittee later issued a news release officially announcing the session and releasing a witness list that did not include Magna. The panel did not say why Magna was not invited.

"The hearing will explore all aspects of the health and well-being of thoroughbred racehorses, including commercial breeding practices that emphasize speed and precocity over durability, the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs and other medications, track surfaces, and maintenance of the tracks," the release said.

Among those asked to testify were Alan Marzelli, president and CEO of The Jockey Club; California Horse Racing Board Chairman Richard Shapiro; and Alex Waldrop of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, an industry group.

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