The voided claim rule is a recent regulatory initiative that should become a standard practice in every state. It accomplishes what all individuals in the racing industry claim to promote: The safety and welfare of our equine athletes is our primary responsibility.
This rule, although it may vary from state to state, automatically voids any claim when a horse dies or is euthanized after a race. It also permits the claimant to void a claim if the horse is placed on the vet’s list after the race because of lameness.
The concept of voiding a claim to protect unsound horses from competing was introduced as a recommendation from the first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in 2006.
These ongoing summits, which have been coordinated and underwritten by Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and The Jockey Club, bring together a wide cross-section of the breeding, racing and veterinary community, for the purpose of improving the safety and soundness of the Thoroughbred racehorse.
According to information provided on the Horse Racing Reform website, nine states have enacted the voided claim rule. They are California, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Arkansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Washington.
In 2016, a decade after the recommendation from the first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) adopted a model rule addressing this issue.
The rule works as intended
California was one of the first states, if not the first, to pursue the passing of a voided claim rule.
Dr. Rick Arthur, the longstanding and internationally renowned equine medical director of the California Horse Racing Board, recommended such a rule in 2008. Its passage didn’t take effect until 2013.
Why the five-year delay?
“Nobody likes change in horse racing. A lot of people think the poker aspect of claiming is part and parcel of horse racing. Unfortunately, it’s the horse that gets the brunt end of that,” said Dr. Arthur.
“The real advantage (of the rule) is that you are not treating horses as commodities. You can’t get rid of a problem by dropping it into a claiming race. You have to actually address the problem,” said Dr. Arthur.
The results from California prove that the rule works.
According to Dr. Arthur, prior to implementing the voided claim rule, 15% of the horses that were claimed never started again. After implementation, it’s down to 3.57%. In other words, the rule has resulted in a reduction of racing these presumably unsound horses by more than 75%.
The racing industry should be grateful to all of the state racing commissions mentioned above that have already adopted this rule. This is especially true of those first enactors who didn’t wait until the passage of the RCI model rule to take this important step in protecting the welfare of our horses.
What about those state that haven’t enacted the rule?
We still have more states playing by the old rule rather than by the new one. Trainers racing in these states are still playing poker with their horses’ health and well being. They are free to drop their problem horse into a claiming race in the hope that it will become someone else’s problem tomorrow.
There exists a loophole just waiting to be exploited.
What could you do if you race in a state with the progressive voided claim rule but still want to get rid of your problem horse?
The answer is simple. Just start perusing the condition books from nearby tracks still operating under the old claiming rule. I’m sure those tracks will welcome the entries. Maybe those tracks would prefer to race unsound horses just to fill the entry box.
So, the special interest groups on this issue are the horsemen and the tracks. And of course, the horses themselves. But they’re not talking, so we have to do it for them.
Obviously, regulators still have much work to do. Do they even know how this rule would benefit their racehorses?
Maybe, maybe not.
“If you don’t appreciate how the claiming game affects horses being treated as commodities then you probably shouldn’t be a racing commissioner,” said Dr. Arthur.