La. senator exploring federal oversight of racing

Federal lawmakers are again looking into regulating Thoroughbred racing, this time possibly capping the number of horses produced.

Staff members from the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., have met with representatives from industry stakeholder groups about a U.S. Thoroughbred Health and Safety Commission, which would address issues such as medication, racehorse retirement and the racing of 2-year-old horses.

Late Tuesday, the senator's office confirmed she "is exploring the possibility of federal legislation to strengthen the industry and protect horses."

Peggy Hendershot, legislative affairs director for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said Landrieu has sought input on some concepts. "As far as we know, a bill has not yet been drafted," Hendershot said.

But she said those concepts apparently include limits on breeding.

The new push for federal oversight comes as the industry is considering a multi-state racing compact.

Several horse industry experts spoke Tuesday to racing regulators at the annual meeting of the Association of Racing Commissioners International about the need for greater cooperation across jurisdictions.

Dell Hancock, Thoroughbred breeder and member of the Jockey Club's safety initiative, said that one thing the safety panel heard over and over from members has been: "Make it the same from state to state."

The racing compact would do that, she said. And it should improve the current regulatory process, which moves now at "glacial speed," she said.

But John Ward, Kentucky Derby-winning trainer, said the compact is proving to be a tough sell in some quarters.

"It means individual jurisdictions are going to have to give up a little bit," Ward said.