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HRU Feedback (2018-02-18)

February 18, 2018

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The only way to create a much-needed Commissioner’s Office

Christopher Fenty’s letter in the February 11 HRU (full letter here) really covered all the bases as to why the cheaters are unstoppable and why the future of the game is bleak. So many fans of the game have written letters and correctly defined problems that are unsolvable. We all know the problems, and we all make great suggestions that will never happen. It is time to go so far outside the box that the box is only a distant memory.

Some basic facts:

1. The USTA, the only organization with any reach, has bylaws and too many directors with different agendas to allow anything meaningful to happen.

2. Everybody who wants the game cleaned up agrees that we need a commissioner’s office. But there is no entity to create a commissioner’s office.

3. There is no Harness Racing Company.

4. Tracks work independently and because casino revenue is exponentially greater than harness racing revenue, the good of the casino will always override the good of racing.

5. The chances of all of the tracks working together for the good of the game is non-existent.

We all know those previous facts. They were listed as a level setting guide to understand the only possible way to go forward.

Here we go. The creation of the Commissioner’s Office. In other sports, the teams united to create the office because all the teams are on the same page. They need each other. In racing, the equivalent is the racetracks. But the tracks are not on the same page. The last thing most of them (casinos) want is a Commissioner’s office. So that model is out. Don’t even think about it anymore. Will never happen. Do the big breeding farms want a Commissioner’s Office? You can stop laughing now. So who can create a Commissioner’s Office? What makes racing so different than baseball, football, basketball and hockey? In those sports, the participants who generate income for the sport are employees of organizations that belong to a single company (i.e., MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). In harness racing, income is generated by investors (owners) and independent contractors (trainers, drivers). By their very nature, a Commissioner’s Office is a way outside the box of their thought process. They compete with each other on a daily basis. But they are the only people who can make it happen. There are no magic fairies. The cavalry will not come in to save the day. The horsemen will do it — or nobody will do it and harness racing will be no more.

A Commissioner’s Office can only be created by the honest horsepeople in the business. The first order of business is for these honest horsepeople to get together to form a COMMITTEE TO CREATE A COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE. Letters need to be sent out to everyone to state that they do not want harness racing to end and “You can add my name to the list of horsepeople who are willing to step up to the plate to save the game.” The list of names is critical. Because the names not on the list will be telling.

Then the committee has to come up with a budget that will be financed by the honest horsepeople in the game. Now the next part will be the hard part to swallow. But it must be done to enforce the integrity of the game. Like every other sport with a Commissioner’s Office, the Commissioner cannot be a horseperson. Once the COMMITTEE TO CREATE A COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE creates the commissioner’s office, that committee ceases to exist.

There is so much this new Commissioner’s Office can do. If you can’t think of anything, just call up some of the great ideas we have seen in previous Letters To HRU. Drivers, trainers, owners, the ball is in your court. Nobody else can make this happen. Drivers, trainers and owners who know all this, and do nothing, are the guilty parties. I’ve read quotes from many influential horsepeople who have accurately portrayed the dire straits of harness racing. It is time to end the dialogue and start the solution. Do or Die!

— Gil Winston / Manalapan, NJ

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