Harrisburg, PA

New Regulations for PA Horseracing

Gregory Vellner

New horseracing standards in PA.Unsplash

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Mired over the past few years with incidents of “illegal and unethical” horseracing practices – the latest when a jockey bet on a horse to win that he was not riding -- the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission has issued integrity measures at its six tracks.

A jockey at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Bucks County, appeared before the race commission’s Board of Stewards on January 20, according to Shannon Powers, press secretary, state Agriculture Department, and after a hearing was suspended from all Pennsylvania tracks through March 21. He has not filed an appeal, said Powers, who noted the jockey was “waging on horses racing at PARX other than the horse he was riding.”

“A jockey may not make a bet on any horse other than the one the jockey is riding,” said Powers. “The bet placed shall only be to ‘win’ and shall only be placed through the owner or trainer of the horse the jockey is riding.”

The suspended jockey also was ordered to complete an accredited gambling addiction program, according to Powers.

“This violation happened in December 2021,” said Powers.

The Parx incident is one of several cases that motivated establishment of new measures at the state's six racetracks across Pennsylvania, said Powers.

A Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission investigation began last spring, said Powers, after searches at Parx by the commission found medications and syringes viewed as contraband. She also said the case came at a time the commission already was examining a large number of horse deaths at state tracks – more than 1,400 thoroughbred deaths total with 710 of them alone at Parx in 2010; 59 at Parx in 2019, and 39 at Parx last year, according to commission statistics, she said.

The new measures include an Integrity Hotline (717-787-1942) where anonymous tips can be made to report suspected poor behavior, according to the Race Commission. Commission staff will follow up to determine whether official action is warranted, according to Powers.

The tip line benefits all, said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

“The Integrity Hotline is one of many strides the commission has taken to oversee the sport and protect the health and safety of horses in Pennsylvania,” he said.

According to the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, new thoroughbred and equine health and safety acts also include these requirements: tracks conduct an independent, third-party analysis of the racetrack twice a year; a horse that finishes more than 12 lengths behind the winner in its last five consecutive starts after Feb. 28, 2022 will be ineligible to start in a race at Pennsylvania thoroughbred racetracks, and the practicing veterinarian is required to examine a horse within 48 hours of placement on the vets’ list due to lameness.

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As a professional journalist for several years -- reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist -- I handled a range of subjects. Breaking news, investigative series, government action, feature events, and staff feature writer with national entertainment magazine interviewing stars including Tom Selleck, Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito. No matter the topic, certain ingredients are key: truth, facts, objectivity, balance.

Bucks County, PA

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