An open letter to the USTA and its chairman Joe Faraldo

by Gordon Banks

The USTA should really be nothing more than a recording/licensing organization. It abdicates responsibilities it doesn’t wish to exercise, but blocks industry progress by asserting its representative capacity in a host of areas.

It deliberately eliminates the creation of narrow, focused, truly functional industry bodies that could be effective industry think tanks through its zealous, defensive over-breadth, thereby undermining needed advances in marketing/governmental interface, research and public relations.

Doing nothing very well, the USTA lives for itself, and for the jobs of its officers and directors.

The USTA should merge with Standardbred Canada for efficiency and cost savings, it should have its chief officers and many of its ridiculously inappropriate 60-plus directors at designated, publicized booths at EVERY major horse sale, at EVERY major big event racing day, and available monthly for online town halls. It should be a responsive industry association that solicits face-to-face input at these sales and big race days. The board should be self-limited to 12. Outreaches to the industry to create specialized new foundations created to focus on marketing, government interfaces, structural changes, legal should be visibly pushed as a means of focusing the USTA on what it is needed to be at this time — a data recording association. All unnecessary expenses such as in person Vegas or Florida meetings should be ended. This is a virtual world, and the industry can’t afford the expense or example of frivolity or unnecessary paid trips for directors and officers.

In the specific case of the federal regulatory bill, stop wasting time fighting for perfection at the outset. You will achieve only principled isolation, and principle alone comes at a steep price. Accept the need to be included, fight for necessary changes from the inside, recognize the need for racing’s unification for federal regulatory purposes — which will have benefits — and accept that the current state-based system has been a dismal, divisive failure. Our industry needs cleaning up, and regulatory oversight from an interested and empowered federal apparatus will assist to that end.

And on a personal, but respectful note, please adopt a posture consistent with your new position. Stop the counterproductive bickering with Jeff Gural. It is unseemly and unnecessary, and distracts from the fact that you have both achieved so much for the industry. Keep your differences private and act professionally. And don’t insult everyone’s intelligence with self-righteous claims of extreme personal integrity or your supposed focus on clean trainers. You — and everyone — knew of the long held, albeit legally unproven drugging aura overhanging (Richard) Banca. You used him. That’s okay. You had the right, and many good owners have strayed on occasion to the legal dark side in quest of victory. But now you represent the USTA. Just man up, admit it was a mistake in YOUR judgement, similar to mistakes so many prominent owners make, and turn the negative into a positive. Use it to push for stronger penalties, more, easier accessed publication of ALL positives, for the need for more undercover investigations and owner penalties for second time association with proven drug trainers. Urge new licensing requirements that address in advance drug trainer issues and legal consequences, suggest new owner notification procedures that would create legal jeopardy for owners staying with trainers having recent drug positives.

Be a force for positive change, not an old guard defender of the status quo. The industry, YOUR industry is in rapid decline, with a myriad of major problems (unfriendly casino ownership, aging customers/workforce/participants, diminished public awareness, conversion from an on-site to an online business, drug/beard trainers ruining the industry, a monotonous product in need of modification, a loss of sufficient race/purse opportunities for middle of the road 2- and 3-year-olds….), be the industry leader to shine a spotlight on each of these and other significant issues. Lead the discussion to create a new industry structure capable of successively addressing each issue, recognize that as structured and managed today, the USTA is part of the problem, that it must self-focus and assist in passing through to others major responsibilities in a host of areas.

Joe, you have done so much to help the industry and horsemen over the years, please review with an open mind the real needs of today’s industry, the things the USTA can and should do well, the need to reorganize both the USTA and the industry, and help lead an industry needing change and leadership with extraordinary urgency.