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Racing Victoria is expanding a program designed to help find homes for retired racehorses as part of an increased focus on improving the animals’ welfare.

Chief executive Bernard Saundry said RV would invest more than $2.5 million a year on raceday veterinary care, welfare compliance, research and its Off The Track retirement program.

The funding equates to about 1.5 per cent of prize money, although the two are not directly linked.

Releasing RV’s 18-month equine welfare strategy on Tuesday, Saundry said the focus was on further improving the welfare outcomes for thoroughbred racehorses before, during and after their racing careers.

“The horse is the centrepiece of our industry and this strategy is an industry-wide commitment that aims to ensure every thoroughbred racehorse in Victoria is afforded the appropriate level of care and welfare by participants and owners,” he said.

The number of acknowledged re-trainers under Off The Track will increase from 40 to 60 over the next year, to help retired racehorses transition to the equestrian, pleasure or breeding industries.

RV will audit at least 25 per cent of the foals born in Victoria to ensure compliance with national rules governing their traceability, welfare and registration.

It will also set up a welfare advisory panel by December and launch a code of practice that, along with online education in equine welfare, will be mandatory parts of the next licensing renewal period in 2017.

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