HISA Considers Request to Include Puerto Rico

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is considering including Puerto Rico in its oversight of rules and enforcement of safety rules as well as anti-doping/medication control.

Created by federal legislation signed into law by President Donald J. Trump in December 2020, HISA is responsible for drafting and enforcing uniform safety and integrity rules in Thoroughbred racing throughout the United States. Operating under the Federal Trade Commission, it will launch its safety initiatives July 1.

HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said the Authority has been approached by some people involved in the industry in Puerto Rico asking if the US territory could be included in its oversight. Puerto Rico offers racing at Hipodromo Camarero outside of San Juan.

Lazarus said HISA is looking into including Puerto Rico but noted that the Authority typically is given oversight through its ability to cut off race simulcasts.

“The only issue is that they don’t fall into the definition of ‘covered’ because they don’t export their signal,” Lazarus said. “So I’m trying to work through the legal team on whether or not there’s still an opportunity for them to opt in because we don’t technically have jurisdiction over them.

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“I know that they really want to be a part of it.”

Lazarus said a representative of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare asked about being included, as did an attendee representing Puerto Rico’s racing commission at this year’s Association of Racing Commissioners International conference in April in Lexington.

In a May 15 letter sent to Lazarus from Puerto Rico Gaming Commission member Jaime Rivera, racing director Juan Santaella, and security and equine welfare representative Gilbert Ferrer, they expressed surprise upon discovering last month that the island territory had not been included under the HISA.

“Approximately 65% ​​of the horses racing in Puerto Rico are imported, many older, injured and at the end of their racing careers. New rules and regulations on a larger level is a step in the right direction for our racing industry,” the letter stated. “All the horses here are registered with The Jockey Club and their races and information are all reported to Equibase like most mainland racetracks.

“We here in Puerto Rico need to be part of HISA for the safety of not only our horses but of our jockeys also.”

Puerto Rico has faced a number of equine welfare issues in recent years. In December the Puerto Rico Gaming Commission approved an order creating a new set of criteria for how Thoroughbred racehorses must be transported to the island on cargo boats, with the goal of having them shipped in a safer and more humane manner. The rules call for anyone who fails to follow the new regulations to be denied access to Camarero, prohibited from registering the shipped horses in Puerto Rico, and fines of $2,500 for each horse shipped in a manner violating the new rules.

Without easy options for shipping off of the island, Thoroughbreds at the track were exposed to Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare reported that 32 horses at Camarero had to be euthanized after the storm.

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