Horse racing – euthanasia via regulation and apathy

HRU Feedback (2019-12-22)

December 22, 2019

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Horse racing – euthanasia via regulation and apathy

My last article on racing’s issues in July (full story here) received very good reviews. Who would take a stand against integrity? Subsequent dialog with colleagues in all facets of horse racing did indeed focus on integrity and our failing business model. It is interesting that the limited negative thoughts questioned what the benefit is to air our dirty laundry. Horse racing’s detractors do not need any more arrows for their quiver.

These concerns have prompted adding these first two paragraphs to specifically note my earnest efforts are to save harness, thoroughbred and quarter horse racing. I am pleased for the verbal support. Albeit what I am attempting to impart, communicate, pass on, transmit that the critical point for measures/action necessary to resuscitate our industry are already in our rearview mirror. Last week Gary Stevens noting racing’s grim future and called for what he believes is necessary, a “rebellion”. Immediate action is imperative.

Our only recourse, the Horse Racing Integrity Act.

We need only to look at the present governmental environment to acknowledge there will be major issues with federal intervention.

Albeit, the provision allowing for an Interstate Compact after five years provides a time frame to develop one set of rules and policies administered by a single regulatory entity. The HRIA is the only path to instituting the regulatory entity horseracing dearly requires.

The patch and pray approach to curtail the erosion of our integrity and public persona has historically failed. We are on a path toward irrelevance.

We tediously throw words at our issues without resolution while our public perception erodes. A racing commissions obligation is to fortify the publics appreciation and faith in our sport. Regrettably most commissioners are political appointments with little if any experience and as most politicians will admit the importance of perceived meaningful action is paramount versus complete appropriate resolution. Integrity and transparency are not measured attributes. They should be key tenets in a commissions culture. This inherent dysfunction creates a difficult climate for presiding judges and stewards never aware of when their commission support will be compromised by irrelevant factors. Questionable decisions formulated behind closed doors along with conflict of interest issues cast a long shadow on any regulatory agency.

The cure for this crisis, an immediate resolute unified effort. The Horse Racing Integrity Act will address the inconsistent regulation, standards and penalties regarding drug violations. Performance enhancing medication in all sports will always be an issue. For those so inclined Erythropoietin (EPO), the medication of choice, is readily available. Eprex the most cost-effective product, Aranesp and Mercera an expensive man-made compound all increases the red blood cells and stamina. These medications can be administered anywhere from 48 to 12 hours out from post time. There is a new compound not yet given a trade name coming from China. Additionally, there is equine, bovine and sheep growth hormones. These medications are very difficult and, in most cases, impossible to detect. To my knowledge there is no on-going research to develop tests for these medications. Most states are struggling with the cost of their drug detection programs. Our regulatory format is a broken. Again, our recourse the Horse Racing Integrity Act.

An outgrowth of this is our ubiquitous integrity flaw plaquing our horsemen, the blatant refusal of our regulators to enforce the rules against listing beard trainers for suspended individuals. The suspended individual simply lists another trainer in name only and never miss a day or a check.

Nothing demoralizes an honest trainer and owner more than seeing horses she/he is racing against shipping in with a suspended trainer`s name emblazoned on trailers and being led into the paddock by their employees. When these horses win or a suspended licensee with multiple fraudulent trainers have two or more horses in a race the owners are one step closer to leaving the business, many already have. An additional concern is how these fraudulent misrepresentations compromise the integrity of the race. There are ways for the presiding judge and/or steward to address such violations. At a national presiding judges meeting last month a “follow the money” solution was unanimous but irrelevant without support of the commissions. This is a major integrity issue that can be resolved tomorrow.

Policy and violation investigations compromised by poor judgement, incompetence, indifference and deceit by horse racing`s regulating agencies have initiated public and industry reproach highlighting our dire need for change. Recently there have been integrity issues in multiple jurisdictions. The Horse Racing Integrity Act is an absolute necessity. It will ensure formidable rules and consistent honest adjudication of equine drug violations.

I should note that there are many commissioners diligent about their obligation to regulate and promote horse racing. Albeit too many mortal sins occur inflicting irreparable damage that if not halted will ensure horse racing’s demise.

If we are interested in euthanizing harness, thoroughbred and quarter horse racing… we can stay the course.

If salvation is the choice, we have our work cut out for us.

As already stated, the beard trainer issue can be addressed by Jan. 1, 2020.

A strong unified effort unlike horse racing has ever experienced to pass the Horse Racing Integrity Act.

Develop and implement a five-year plan to establish the Interstate Compact provision in the Horse Racing Integrity Act creating one regulating agency.

Adjusting individual agendas for the long-term benefit of our business.

Until one regulating entity is established our owners, horsemen and racetracks must serve as watchdogs overseeing and pressuring our commissions to institute fair, equitable and consistent adjudications. This effort could be compromised as racetrack/casino owners are concerned about rocking the boat and incurring nonessential review of their gaming operations. Horsemen are also rightfully concerned with repercussions.

Lobby our Governors to hire experienced individuals that have the wellbeing of horse racing as a priority.

We all realize that this is a monumental task that in our present state we cannot even hope to accomplish. The Horse Racing Integrity Act will pave the road to securing our future.

A first step is as close as your laptop or smartphone… get on social media and demand immediate action.

We are at Yogi’s “Fork in The Road” already heading in the wrong direction. We have two options, immediately alter our course or resume the path we have been on for decades maintaining the status quo and ensuring our demise.

– Art Gray / West Seneca, NY

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