Digital platform launches new $200,000 stakes, aims for enhanced transparency

Digital platform launches new stakes series, aims for enhanced transparency

April 19, 2020

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Four new $200,000 stakes at Lexington’s Red Mile exclusively for 4-year-olds will be added to the calendar in 2022 and no stakes payments are required. To qualify, horses must register to be on the new EquineX platform before May 10 — with 20 per cent of the proceeds directed toward an industry Coronavirus Hardship Fund.

by Dave Briggs

A new stakes series exclusively for 4-year-olds will be added to the calendar beginning in 2022 — and, like the Jimmy Freight stakes — this series won’t involve stakes payments. Eligibility will be determined by those that sign up for a new digital platform called EquineX designed to bring transparency and integrity to the sport.

“There’s no stake payments. It’s just basically being on our platform for the 30 months. The registration deadline will be May 10,” said company chairman and standardbred owner Paul Simmonds about the platform developed in conjunction with former standardbred owner and start-up maven Derek Ivany and Parminder Singh, who helped develop and oversee Microsoft’s Xbox.

The cost of subscribing is $29.99 (U.S.) per horse, per month. The registration deadline is for current 2-year-olds looking to be eligible for the races two years from now.

“What we’re doing is we’ve set up a Coronavirus Hardship Fund for the industry, so we’re donating 20 per cent of the subscriptions from that to the industry… We’ve actually divided that depending on whether the horse is a U.S.-bred or a Canadian bred horse. So, if the horse registered was, say, by Father Patrick, then that 20 per cent would go to the States and if it was a Kadabra it would go to Canada,” Simmonds said.

All four of the stakes, each carrying a $200,000 (U.S.) purse, will be held at Lexington, KY’s Red Mile during the Grand Circuit meeting in 2022. All four events will also be contested at a distance longer than a mile — likely a mile-and-a-quarter or mile-and-a-half. It is hoped each race will have between 12 and 14 starters, with the field determined by earnings. Further details are available on the EquineX website (www.equinex.com).

The race for trotting males will be called The Jimmy Takter. The male pacing race will be called The John Campbell. The company is currently considering names for the female events, but plans to name them after prominent women in the sport. EquineX is planning a five-year commitment to the stakes races to extend through 2026.

Simmonds said the EquineX platform is, “all about transparency and accountability in the industry.

“The way it works is… the horse is the center of the universe, and the platform. Basically, when you subscribe to the platform, your horse is now on the platform and the trainers of that horse will automatically get the app free of charge. Basically, it’s a training tool that will do several things – it will help them communicate with all the owners and what we call, the ‘inner circle’ of the horse. That could be the owners, the vet, the farrier and so on. The tool will also enable him to manage his stable and his staff.

“Then there’s also a vet app and that’s very important. The vet app is basically a horse management tool for vets on these horses to secure every procedure, every medication administered to horses and it goes on this permanent, secure record. That’s really the core of the platform.

“Really what this is all about is transparency and accountability in the industry. When a vet actually performs some sort of a procedure on a horse, the trainer will have to verify that he is aware or confirmed that the procedure was done. Then, that goes on a permanent and secure record.

“When that horse gets transferred to a new owner, the vet record will go with the horse. The owners technically have the right to say whether they want to provide those records, but those records, for every horse on the platform, will exist.

“What we’re trying to do, quite frankly, is to address the issues that the industry has right now, which is transparency and being accountable to stakeholders in the industry. And to owners… I think when you look at all these indictments that just happened, you have to feel sorry for a lot of the owners that had no idea. I’m sure some owners did have an idea, but there’s got to be lots of owners that really didn’t know that their trainers were doing this stuff.”

Simmonds, — perhaps best known in the industry as part-owner of trotting star Wesgate Crown, a 2011 inductee into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame — said Singh, “an expert in the field of motion sensors and motion detectors” is working on developing wearable technology that may be able to detect when a horse may be at risk of developing an injury.

“Maybe there’s an injury brewing or something that you wouldn’t see with the human eye, but you could see it if you had one of these boots,” Simmonds said. “It’s pretty high-tech stuff that, quite frankly, in the horse racing industry, hasn’t been that prevalent in the past.”

Simmonds said Takter is a co-founder of EquineX and has, “been very involved since the beginning in the formation of the company. Bryan Montgomery is one of our advisors to the insurance industry. We think there’s a real need in the industry, too, from an insurance standpoint for a platform like ours. I’ve talked to a number of insurance companies and they struggle insuring horses, just because often we don’t know what the (horse’s) history is or we don’t know what’s going on from a medical standpoint.

“We’re also setting up an adversary committee for veterinarians. As I said, one of the most important parts of this is maintaining the secure vet records for horses… Barry Carter is a vet out of Ohio with a large standardbred practice and he’s leading our vet advisory board. We’re going to be adding additional vets in that regard, too.”

As for how the technology would deal with the small minority of disreputable vets that, obviously, choose not to disclose that a horse may have been administered a performance enhancing drug, Simmonds said he believes recent FBI indictments will increase the likelihood of whistleblowers in the industry, “because in these last indictments they also nailed some assistant trainers and some grooms… I’ve got to believe there is going to be a certain degree of paranoia in these barns of people not playing by the rules, so I’m hoping that will be one step.

“The second thing is that really what we want to do is develop the relationships and partnerships with industry regulators and associations and, possibly even, racetracks… Basically what we want is to become the gold standard for transparency in the industry.”

Simmonds said he’s hoping EquineX can have similar impact on horse racing that Carfax had on the used car business.

“Carfax changed the used car business… because people would say, ‘If you can’t provide me with the service record on your car, then I’m not going to buy it. I’ll buy some other car,’” Simmonds said. “Well, with horses, why shouldn’t you be able to see all the medical and health records over the years on that horse?

“In what we call the amateur-competitive market, the dressage and eventing and show jumping, a lot of those horses are $20,000 or $25,000 horses that have come off the racetrack. Those people tend to get really ripped off because they really have no idea what they are buying and what the history of that horse is. So, that’s a segment of the market that we are certainly paying lots of attention to.”

EquineX will roll out first as a tool for the standardbred industry and then expand into the thoroughbred business and beyond, Simmonds said.

“We’re not going after just one segment of the (equine) market, we’re going after the entire industry,” he said.

“Really what we’re doing is we’re bringing to bear in the industry the accountability necessary and the transparency necessary to be able to survive. If the industry doesn’t address this, I think the survival of the standardbred industry is at risk and probably the thoroughbred industry… it’s got the same problems we see in the standardbreds.”

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