Kentucky Horse Racing Commission
Equine Medical Director Excited by Challenge
Less than two months since becoming Kentucky’s first equine medical director, Dr. Mary Scollay has hit the ground running.
At a time when thoroughbred racing has been in the international spotlight over safety issues, Dr. Scollay is at the forefront in efforts to make racing as safe as possible for its competitors.
One of the most promising developments in recent years has been a project that she spearheaded – the development of a uniform, on-track equine injury reporting system. Dr. Scollay led efforts to establish the system, through the sponsorship of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.
Through the reporting system, race tracks submit information on the details on an injury occurring to a horse on race day, from a mild, self-limiting injury to a fatal occurrence. The system went online in June 2007; since then, some 4,000 reports have been received.
Kentucky’s tracks were quick to adopt the reporting system, Scollay said. Initially, 30 tracks throughout the nation signed on to submit reports. Now the number has climbed to more than 60.
At this point, the database is still being built and while individual racing jurisdictions are able to retrieve and analyze their own data, national statistics have not yet been generated. These national figures are expected to be published in 2009.
How will the reporting system benefit racing? Dr. Scollay said that comparing injuries under specific conditions might lead to information that can protect horses from future injury.
Dr. Scollay is especially interested in unraveling the mystery of condylar fractures that involve a horse’s cannon bone. Such a fracture is often serious and sometimes fatal. 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro suffered a condylar fracture and after a long rehabilitation, had to be euthanized.
“We haven’t found any way to detect the signs of this problem before the injury occurs,” Dr. Scollay said. She hopes the new database will lead veterinarians toward answers to what circumstances lead to such an injury, with an eye toward reducing its occurrence in the future.
Medications in horse racing are another priority topic capturing Dr. Scollay’s attention, especially in view of recent publicity.
“The issue of medications is very complex,” Dr. Scollay said. “There are valid therapeutic reasons for administering certain medications to race horses under certain conditions. The task is to determine circumstances in which administering medications provides an unfair advantage or masks an injury.”
A case in point was the recent recommendation by the Equine Drug Research Council to ban anabolic steroid use in Kentucky racing.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission examined the recommendation and voted to adopt the ban. Governor Steve Beshear signed the revised regulations and they went into effect immediately under emergency provisions.
“The anabolic steroids ban was a very thoughtful and firm response to an industry problem,” Dr. Scollay said.
Dr. Scollay is a transplant from Florida, where she spent the past 13 years as senior veterinarian for Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park.
She holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Illinois and has practiced in Illinois and Florida. Her husband, Jim, served as a jockey’s valet for nearly 40 years. They live in Georgetown, not far from the horse racing commission offices at the Kentucky Horse Park.
What’s it like to live in to the horse capital of the world?
“It’s glorious. The weather….the people.”
There is one drawback for this Illinois native. She hasn’t been able to find a restaurant that serves one of Chicago’s signature dishes.
“We’re still looking for some good pizza,” she said.
In her rare spare time, Dr. Scollay collects old race programs, some dating to the 19th century.