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Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act signed into law
HORSE RACING

Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act signed into law

The Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act is now law.

The legislation passed by the Senate on Dec. 21 will put medication control and safety programs under the umbrella of one independent non-governmental authority. It was part of a government funding bill that President Donald Trump signed into law Sunday night.

A nominating committee can now move forward in naming the nine members who will be part of the Racing Integrity and Safety Authority, which will contract with the United States Anti-Doping Agency to oversee the medication control program on a national basis.

The push to have the act passed was led by The Jockey Club and joined by several major racetracks and organizations. That list includes the Breeders’ Cup, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Churchill Downs, Del Mar Racetrack and the New York Racing Association.

The bill calls for a phase-in period and will not take effect until July 1, 2022.

The legislation was the focus of a Nebraska Racing Commission Zoom meeting in September when the president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) warned that smaller racetracks would have difficulty handling the costs passed down by the new Authority.

Visiting Dazzling Falls

The passing of all-time Nebraska-bred money winner Dazzling Falls last week brought back another memory to the colt’s trainer, Chuck Turco.

He told the racing publication the Paulick Report that the two had gone their separate ways after Dazzling Falls retired. Turco went back to his base at Oklahoma’s Remington Park, and the colt, who ran in the 1995 Kentucky Derby, went off to begin his stud career.

Turco, who had been busy with his growing stable, said seven years passed before he was able to pay a visit to his star runner.

“When I did have the opportunity to see him, he was out in this big pasture," the Omaha-born trainer said. “He ran the length of that thing right to me and I thought, ‘My God, he remembered me after all these years.’ "

Turco said he felt so guilty that he would visit Dazzling Falls every chance he got.

Not bred in Nebraska

A reader questioned whether Dazzling Falls was indeed the only Nebraska-bred to race in the Kentucky Derby.

Other Derby horses have had Nebraska ties, but none were state-breds.

Omaha won the Triple Crown in 1935 but was bred in Kentucky. Kauai King, owned by Omahan Mike Ford, won the 1966 Derby but was bred in Maryland.

Omahans Gary and Mary West also have had colts in the Derby, most notably Maximum Security. That horse won the 2019 Derby but was disqualified for interference in the stretch.

Former trainer dies

Longtime Nebraska horseman Jim Kirby passed away Dec. 9 in Grand Island at age 85.

Kirby, a graduate of Silver Creek High School and a Navy veteran, later worked on the starting gate at several racetracks. He drove a Greyhound bus for many years before he and his wife returned to Nebraska, where he began his training career in 1992.

Kirby’s horses also raced in Oklahoma, Iowa and Minnesota before his retirement in 2013.

Never too old

When Rey Marquez saddled a winner in early December at Zia Park in New Mexico, it made news.

Marquez, who had come up short with 12 previous starters this year, is believed to be the nation’s oldest trainer. He turned 92 on Dec. 22.

He told the Paulick Report that he kept young in part by dancing.

“I still danced three times a week until the place was shut down due to COVID," he said. “I do a mean cha-cha."

Marquez has saddled almost 3,500 horses during his career and had at least one winner nearly every year since 1976.

Desormeaux returns

Hall of fame jockey Kent Desormeaux has returned to racing at California’s Santa Anita racetrack after a three-month hiatus.

Desormeaux had been participating in a rehabilitation program for substance abuse. He underwent similar treatment in 2016.

“I learned a lot about myself and came back to reality," Desormeaux told the Thoroughbred Daily News. “There’s a lot of people who certainly care about me and they were deeply concerned."

The 50-year-old rider has won more than 6,000 races, including an American record 598 in 1989. The Louisiana native has captured seven Triple Crown races, including three Kentucky Derby winners — Real Quiet in 1998, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and Big Brown in 2008.

Commission meetings

The Nebraska Racing Commission will hold two virtual meetings via Zoom in early January.

The first will be Jan. 6 at 1:30 p.m. and the second will be Jan. 11 at 10 a.m.