Updated 08/24/2012 06:10 PM
New security and medication protocols for 143rd Travers Stakes
The state's racing authorities are trying to make sure the 11 entrants in Saturday's Travers Stakes are competing on an even playing field. YNN's Matt Hunter has more on the new protocols for this year's race.
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SARATOGA RACE COURSE – With less than 24 hours until the field takes the track for the 143rd Travers Stakes, trainers have just about squared away their final preparations for the race.
"They're doing super, yeah," said Kenny McPeek, the lone trainer with two entries, Atigun and Golden Ticket, in this year’s Travers.
"You know, he's coming into the race as good as a horse can come into it," said Nick Zito, trainer of Fast Falcon.
Eleven colts are entered in the Grade 1, $1 million stakes for three-year-olds. Every last one of them will compete under new security and medication protocols enacted by the state's Racing and Wagering Board earlier this month.
"Travers is Saratoga's day to shine and it's a national TV audience and there will be a big crowd here and we want to make sure that when people come here, they know the racing they're going to see is going to ensure the health of the equine athletes, the health of the jockeys and that the racing is on the level," Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini said.
Each entrant was required to be on the grounds no later than Wednesday and was subject to an out-of-competition blood test.
Unlike June's Belmont Stakes, where horses were moved into a detention barn a few days before the race, Travers starters have been allowed to stay in their trainer's barns but are under 24 hour surveillance.
"For me, you know, I think that's a plus,” said Zito, who won the Travers in 2004 with Birdstone. “As long as the horse doesn't have to leave his environment. Like I told these guys, I don't care if you sleep here, it's ok with me."
"It's fine,” said McPeek, who’s yet to saddle a Travers winner. “I think it's a bit overkill to some extent, but they're doing their job, they need to make sure the race is run clean."
In addition to the 24 hour security, a list of all medications and veterinary treatments given to each Travers horse will be posted on the Racing and Wagering Board's website each day. The goal is to create transparency about the controversial topic of equine medications.
"It's trying to bring the public into the concept that we're running clean racing here or that we're trying to get clean racing as best as we can," Sabini said.
According to Sabini, all of the measures are designed to ensure the race is run on an even playing field, something the trainers say they're just fine with.
"We've never had an issue with any positive tests anyway, so in our barn it's not really an issue but I suppose with the integrity of things it's not a bad idea," McPeek said.
"What can you say? It's good for the public," Zito said.