PTHA, Parx Institute Mandatory Microchipping of Horses

-By Tom LaMarra, Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association

Parx Racing, under a plan pushed by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, will become the first track in the Mid-Atlantic region to require the microchipping of all horses stabled in the barn area.

The PTHA discussed the policy with horsemen during a meeting Nov. 9. The microchipping will be done by a veterinarian one or two barns at a time; horsemen will be notified on a Monday, fill out a stall report by Tuesday and ensure that all foal papers are available, and then have the chips implanted Friday.

The chips are being provided by The Jockey Club, and the PTHA is paying the cost to have the horses chipped. The PTHA also purchased three scanners at a cost of $250 each.

PTHA Executive Director Mike Ballezzi said the program has multiple benefits, including identifying horses in the paddock, keeping track of horses at the stable gate, and identifying horses after they retire and move on to second careers. About 1,300 horses will be microchipped at Parx at the outset of the program.

“It’s a way of knowing who’s coming in and out,” Ballezzi said. “We’re not microchipping ship-ins—they should be chipped by tracks in other states. It’s about control of inventory, and you have to take the first steps. Eventually we’ll get to the next step, which is (requiring a chip for a horse to race).”

The Jockey Club in 2016 began a voluntary foal microchipping program and made it mandatory in 2017. So 2-year-0lds that race next year will have been chipped as part of registration protocol.

The California Horse Racing Board in 2017 proposed a requirement that all Thoroughbreds entered to race be microchipped. It went through the customary approval process and takes effect in late December of this year, according to the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission was made aware of the plan to microchip horses at Parx but its approval wasn’t necessary. PTHA President Sal DeBunda, a member of the PHRC, said the regulatory agency was fine with it.

“We’re looking at ways to help integrity,” DeBunda said. “We think this would be a good thing to do in the entire region.”

The PTHA told its membership that microchips, when used in conjunction with the official markings described on foal registration certificates, provide an additional layer of confidence in establishing the identity of horses. Microchip identification numbers are reported to The Jockey Club, which maintains the database, and must be read with an ISO 11785-compliant scanner.

The PTHA noted microchipping can also assist aftercare initiatives such as its Turning For Home program in keeping track of horse inventory and identifying horses after they leave the program.

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