Breeders’ Cup Safety Protocols

Safety Protocols at Breeders' Cup

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is tomorrow. All indications are that it will be an incredible race, with an impressive field of eight of the top horses in racing. To make sure the horses stay safe (and to avoid the problems that have arisen with horses testing positive for drugs), extensive protocols are in place.

Every Breeders’ Cup runner is subject to:

  • Randomized out-of-competition (OOC) testing, which began around the world in June and concluded on Monday, October 31, resulting in the collection of nearly 350 blood and hair samples;
  • In-stall and on-track veterinary oversight during training and schooling at Keeneland;
  • Comprehensive veterinary exams including diagnostics, as needed, which began Friday, October 21 at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Trackside and the Thoroughbred Training Center;
  • Submission of 30-day treatment records by the attending veterinarian – a nationwide requirement under HISA;
  • Mandatory trot-up observations of every horse prior to entering a racing surface;
  • 24-hour surveillance following a mandatory equine security check-in on Tuesday, November 1 to implement a 72-hour surveillance window for Future Stars Friday runners and a 96-hour window for horses running on Championship Saturday;
  • An additional round of testing for performance enhancing medications and prohibited substances on all horses entered in a Championship race on Tuesday, November 1, which when included with the randomized testing throughout the year more than 520 blood, hair and urine samples collected from horses prior to the World Championships; and
  • Extensive post-race testing of the first four finishers as well as any other runner that does not perform as expected and others designated by the Stewards.

A team of veterinarians observe all potential Breeders’ Cup runners in the stable area on the track and in their stalls leading up to the event in addition to a mandatory pre-race evaluation on race day to ensure every runner is fit to race. The monitoring efforts of both the Breeders’ Cup’s veterinarian and security teams have also been bolstered by Keeneland’s unique barn surveillance system.

Security cameras at Keeneland allow views of each stall, key areas on the backstretch, and racetracks to allow for constant surveillance and evaluation of horses.

The track has a new network of 11 articulated cameras which add to the existing network of barn cameras to allow officials to monitor horses in barns, on both tracks, the paddock, and even on horse paths.

“To say it’s amazing is probably an understatement,” said Dora Delgado, chief racing officer for Breeders’ Cup. “The camera quality and the capture of being able to isolate a particular horse on the racetrack when there could be 200 horses out there is just remarkable. This would be a gold standard that tracks should follow.

“Cameras are literally everywhere.”

Breeders’ Cup and Keeneland will implement of HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) Program, which will be administered and enforced by the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU) under Drug Free Sport International. The new rules and independent enforcement agency will ensure consistent, transparent and timely processes for testing, adjudication and the enforcement of uniform equine safety standards starting January 1, 2023. All races run at Keeneland on Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 will be conducted medication free.


A “Going Stick” measures the amount of force required to push the tip into the ground and the shear, the energy needed to pull back to an angle of 45 degrees from the ground.

Much of horse safety is linked to the track surface. Keeneland, in consultation with a team of experts including Dr. Mick Peterson, director of the University of Kentucky’s Ag Equine Program and co-founder of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, undertook more than a year of research and testing of materials and water drainage systems and race track design before converting the all-weather main track to dirt in 2014. As a result, Keeneland’s 1 1/16-dirt track is a blend of approximately 19,000 tons of sand, silt and clay native to Kentucky.

Depending on the conditionals, the track is harrowed or floated after after race and at the day is harrowed, rolled, watered and harrowed again. Yesterday, 24,000 gallons of water were applied. Today the turf and dirt tracks were considered to be “fast”. The current moisture content on the main track is 18.5% and the “Going Stick” had an average penetration of 6.2. A Going Stick is so named because the track conditions are called “the going.”

With all system ‘go’, it looks like tomorrow will be a tremendous day of racing. Have you chosen your winner yet at Classic Pick ‘Em yet?

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