Racecourse Manager Certification Program To Launch In June At University Of Kentucky

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL) announced Friday the dates for the launch of a joint initiative offering a Racecourse Manager Certification from the University of Kentucky.

The initial three-course program, entitled “Turfgrass as an Equine Sports Surface,” is designed for those already engaged in careers with turf surface maintenance. Free online classes will begin June 7 and will be archived. Individuals who complete the video courses and pass a test that requires a $50 fee will receive a certificate of completion from the University of Kentucky. Participating Thoroughbred racetracks that enroll their personnel will receive credit toward future accreditation by the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance.

The “Turfgrass as an Equine Sports Surface” courses are:
June 7: Selection of Turf for Climate Zones
June 14: Cultivation of Turf for Compaction and Wear
June 21: Measurement of Turf Condition

The curriculum for the turf management course was developed by Michael “Mick” Peterson, Ph.D., Director of the Racetrack Safety Program at the University of Kentucky and Executive Director of the Racing Surfaces and Testing Laboratory (RSTL). Other participants in the online courses include turf experts:

  • Mike Boekholder, Boekholder & Associates;
  • Logan Freeman, Mountain Branch Golf Club, Joppa Maryland;
  • Michael Goatley, Jr., Ph.D., Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University;
  • Beth Guertal, Ph.D., Professor of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, Auburn University;
  • Gregg Munshaw, Ph.D., Director of Agronomy, Mountain View Seeds; and
  • Geoffrey Rinehart, MS, Turfgrass Management Lecturer, University of Maryland.

Participating experts in equine biomechanics include:

  • Dr. Sarah Jane Hobbs, University of Central Lancashire;
  • Alison Northrop, Nottingham Trent University; and
  • Lars Roepstorff, Swedish University of Agriculture.

Racing industry leaders participating include:

  • Brian Jabelman, Senior Director of Track Operations, New York Racing Association;
  • Jim Pendergest, Director of Racing Surfaces, Keeneland Racetrack;
  • Jamie Richardson, Racetrack Superintendent, Churchill Downs; and
  • Sean Gault, Equine Racing Specialist, DCS & Associates.

Individuals interested in receiving additional information and pre-enrolling for the online sessions can visit https://www.ntra.com/rmcp/.

“This is exactly the type of collaboration we envisioned when the Racing Surfaces and Testing Laboratory (RSTL) joined forces with the University of Kentucky Ag Equine Programs. The benefits of this interaction are undeniable as we seek to further protect the welfare of the horse and develop the industry’s future workforce,” said NTRA President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Waldrop.

“We have assembled a powerhouse line-up of instructors to cover multiple equine disciplines ranging from turf racing to polo to eventing,” said Peterson. “This will be a science-based curriculum for individuals who are serious about their profession and desire to be leaders in their chosen fields. We are starting with a turf curriculum, but future modules will focus on all types of surfaces and will include hands-on training with track maintenance equipment.”

“We are thrilled to see this program get off the ground and appreciate the support of NTRA. Our college has a strong commitment to getting our best information out to those in the real world who can use it,” said Nancy Cox, UK Vice President for Land Grant Engagement and College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Dean.

“The science driving progress on racing safety includes not only the horses and riders themselves, but also clearly the racing surfaces on which they compete. It is exciting to see the optimization and application of knowledge from turfgrass science applied to the management challenges of turf racing,” said James MacLeod, director of UK Ag Equine Programs and Elizabeth A. Knight chair and professor of veterinary science at the Gluck Equine Research Center.

About the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory
The Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory is a non-profit (501c3) organization that carries out on-site and laboratory testing and data services for surfaces used for horse racing and equine sports. Founded in 2009, the lab is able to compare data from a wide range of surfaces used in the horse racing industry including dirt, turf and synthetic track surfaces. In 2020 the mission of the laboratory was expanded through a major gift which will allow improved on-site testing capabilities and expanded database services. In addition to racetrack testing and the development of tools to improve the consistency of the surfaces, the laboratory works with the University of Kentucky on the study of alternative racetrack surfaces and equipment, and the development and the development and promotion of standards for racetrack surfaces. All of these efforts are focused on increased consistency of racing surfaces as a part of broader efforts for the protection of horses and riders.

About the University of Kentucky Ag Equine Programs
UK Ag Equine Programs serves as the front door to equine work being done at the University of Kentucky, representing the breadth and depth of all things equine in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. It exemplifies the college’s long-term commitment to serving the equine industry and horse enthusiasts regionally, nationally and internationally.

About the Equine Sports Turfgrass Alliance
The Equine Sports Turfgrass Alliance, (ESTA) is a recently formed group of university and industry turfgrass experts in partnership with Dr. Mick Peterson. ESTA as an organization is dedicated to conducting research and providing education about turfgrass surfaces for racetrack, eventing, polo and other-use equine surfaces. This education event is their first offering. However, future research and educational opportunities for horse owners, trainers and equine facility managers are currently being developed. It is the goal of ESTA to bring science-backed maintenance practices to the forefront of equine turfgrass systems.

About the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance
The NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance is a standing organization formed in 2008 with the goal of establishing national uniform standards in the areas of safety and integrity. Alliance accreditation standards cover six broad areas: (1) injury reporting and prevention; (2) creating a safer racing environment; (3) aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; (4) uniform medication, testing and penalties; (5) safety research; and (6) wagering security. The standards are revised annually to adopt new and progressively more stringent requirements.

About the NTRA
The NTRA, based in Lexington, Ky., is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance; NTRA.com; the Eclipse Awards; the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC); NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program; and Horse PAC®, a federal political action committee. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com and social media.

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