Monday, July 27, 2015
Fed Bills Fumble on Meds
LOS ANGLES, July 27, 2015--Anyone fearful of Federal intervention had ample justification dumped in their laps last week when sponsors of one Congressional bill dealing with horse racing reform started criticizing a newer, similar bill with different sponsors.
Already on record in support of the newer bill, HRI Executive Editor, John Pricci commented
, "Perhaps they should consider acting like grownups and help push for legislation that makes the game better for bettors and industry stakeholders. If they are sincere, they should try to fashion a solution helping like-minded colleagues instead of competing with them."
Also supporting the newer bill is a coalition of the Jockey Club and the Water, Hay, Oats Alliance (WHOA). Recently, the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) was invited by the Jockey Club to join that coalition.
HANA then polled its membership to determine whether or not it should do so, but they have not shared the results for several weeks now. Perhaps expansion of the elite Jockey Club's influence is not all that popular a concept, or perhaps horseplayers only care about the next set of past performances?
I believe both bills contain the same fatal flaw, i.e., they put the proverbial cart before the horse.
The reason the Federal Government is inserting itself in the widely called-for overhaul of racing's medication and drug testing policies and punishment procedures is because the industry cannot – or will not – reform itself. Due to its fragmented regulation at 38 state levels – which effectively protects existing political fiefdoms and private power bases – it lacks the authority to impose change across racing jurisdictions.
Or, perhaps, now that there are casinos on virtually every corner and drafting athletes for dollars, the tacit legalization of sports gambling throughout the 50 states, bean counters don’t care all that much anymore about racing’s contributions—one that has declined by about 25 percent in the last decade—to their various coffers.
Both bills appear to address only a subset of required reforms without first creating a framework for a central authority with the ability and responsibility to analyze, prioritize, and fund completion of all of them.
There is no completely, coherent strategy in place for creating a truly representative decision-making body independent of the states that can A) establish the rules all venues must follow, B) enforce those rules in identical fashion everywhere, and C) ensure cooperation among all venues to achieve the "greatest collective benefit to all."
The hope is that, as provided within the bill, there will be meaningful cooperation between the industry and government as the process will not go forward without first getting input from the industry, which may lead back to square one since there is no central authority.
The status quo becomes more insurmountable by the day and only the industry is to blame due to its own foot-dragging.
How such a body might be formed, funded, and staffed, is problematic because few, if any, appear to be in favor of direct control of racing by the Federal government, which really is part of the big lie; the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is an already established independent body.
If Federally-sponsored legislation really wants to have a positive impact, perhaps it should call for, create, and help pay for a Centralized Racing Authority Convention to independently draft a detailed proposal for such a body to be operated as a private corporation with Federally-legislated authority; with accountability to a Federal government agency when that need presents itself. Perhaps this private, corporate entity could be the ultimate-compromise way forward.
What better model than the Constitutional Convention of our Founding Forefathers to work out a solution to racing's problems and map out the game's future? In my opinion, any proposal developed must have complete transparency built in, possibly by a group of elected representatives.
In this case, the electorate would consist of people directly and indirectly involved in racing occupationally, racing's customers, and representatives of State and Federal governments.
Perhaps a blue-ribbon panel of representatives could be appointed from each state in which racing is conducted by the federal government including industry stakeholders, but not limited to, alphabetically: 1) bettors, 2) breeders, 3) horse owners, 4) horse rescuers, 5) jockeys, 6) news providers, 7) regulators, 8) stewards, 9) track management, 10) trainers, 11) veterinarians. Did I leave anyone out?
One possible scenario might be that the government/stakeholder group (GSG) name three individuals it considered capable of addressing racing-related issues with integrity and intelligence.
Ballots with those candidates for each GSG seat would then be mailed to each government appointee, industry licensee, and to each unique ADW account holder, virtually every serious fan/bettor.
A statement by each candidate for viewing and commenting would be made available on all actively monitored racing discussion forum websites.
Each candidate must propose possible solutions to deal effectively with areas of greatest conflict:
Uniform rules of wagering as well as racing
Race day medication policy
Drug testing procedures
Current acceptable levels under specific circumstances
Authorized testing agencies and source(s) of funding)
Specific penalties for violation of specific rules, and multiple violations over specific periods
Procedures for challenging and effecting changes to rules and rulings subsequently brought into question.
As a horseplayer, I want to see uniformity of definition, access, and application, as well as transparency of implementation, characterizing each of the following aspects of wagering:
Takeout revenue optimization
Expansion and Promotion of high-churn wagers
Breakage levels and beneficiaries
Taxation on individual payoffs and collective winnings
Rebates to winners AND losers
State Residency Regulations
Other GSGs will undoubtedly have different issues to pursue. The main goal of the preceding approach is create a group collectively concerned, experienced, and reasonable enough to participate objectively.
Surely, there are some Franklin and Jefferson types associated with racing capable of hammering out something that the vast majority can get behind. I'll take a shot at priming the pump with a few recognizable names with impeccable credentials:
– Tim Ritvo
– Bennett Liebman
– Maggie Moss
– Barry Irwin
– Caroline Betts
– H. Graham Motion
– Dr. Avery Bramlage
– Jerry Bailey
– Ray Paulick
– John Pricci
New York Racing
– Steven Crist
I hope readers will feel free to chime in with any names they trust to represent them in such an endeavor, and with any GSG-specific issues they feel strongly about.
Written by Indulto
Friday, July 03, 2015
I Can No Longer Look the Other Way
LOS ANGELES, July 2, 2015—As children, we are trained to look both ways before crossing the street. Likewise, some of us are taught to look at both sides of an issue before making a decision regarding it.
Racing survives because most of its customers have been conditioned to look the other way whenever its flaws come into view.
In my sixth decade of betting on thoroughbreds, I find it progressively harder to overlook the game's shortcomings and those of its leadership.
The evils of simulcasting has perverted parimutuel wagering and tilted playing fields for both horseplayers and horsemen.
The process is no less damaging than the malfeasance displayed by racing's operators and regulators whose independent fiefdoms effectively prevent reform and protect the powerful.
The Rick Dutrow case has finally brought me to my senses. Any fairness, justice and transparency that may have once been evident in racing appears to have vanished.
The game as it now exists is not one I care to pass on to future generations. I can no longer accept the status quo as either a customer or a citizen.
Like society, the game has changed dramatically in the past half century with the emergence of alternative forms of legalized gambling.
Not only have racing's participants been pared down to a fraction of their former ranks but state and local governments have become increasingly dependent upon the revenue alternate forms of gambling generates.
While the tax burdens of corporations and the wealthy were lowered, the middle class has shrunk. Disposable income became a victim of the inflation caused by wasteful overspending on the military, social services abuses, fraud, etc., etc.
I've often wondered whether racing's decline in New York since the Rockefeller Administration was as much the result of undeclared wars around the world as the disastrous decision by NYRA not to create and control off-track betting in the first place.
So many potential players – particularly among young males from the populous Empire State – must have been permanently dissuaded from participating because the opportunity to play the game was never encouraged properly.
The threat of terrorism, as well as pleas from the well-heeled to demand comfort and exclusivity at any cost, now limits live attendance at premier racing events; compelling the masses wishing to attend such spectacles to settle for participation via TV sets and computer screens.
The technological advances that eliminated binoculars and betting windows also has fueled revenue flow to a subset of trainers and professional bettors whose enhanced edge-taking exploits advantages not available to the competition.
The greed at work here fundamentally is no different than the kind that causes a collapse of the stock market, mortgage and insurance industries.
The conduct on the part of state appointees and elected representatives in California, where political influence and neglect have presided over the industry's contraction there, is particularly offensive.
This behavior is exceeded only in New York’s where an iron-fisted Governor has enabled the sacrifice of natural beauty and equal treatment for all that ignited my life-long passion for racing during my initial exposure to Saratoga Race Course.
No one explored the current situation as elegantly as Tom Noonan
It's often been said that voters in a democracy get the government they deserve. Similarly, by continuing to consume racing products sold and sanctioned by politically-connected operators and regulators we get the regulation and oversight we deserve.
So far, no organized advocacy for racing reform has been able to attract support large enough to compel change. Until someone with sufficient stature steps forward to become a respected, highly-visible leader, a voice of reason, no meaningful reform will take place.
Until that happens, I'll simply play even less than I do now and won’t bother to re-fill my ADW account--even if the funding runs out before the Breeders' Cup.
If you want to see an individual who can make a difference and help change the status quo, take a good look in the mirror.
That person can challenge and change the manner in which racing is conducted nationwide provided he or she is willing to combine with others to create credible, accountable and transparent representation.
Or are we willing to continue looking the other way, getting the kind of sport we deserve?
Written by Indulto
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Addressing the Weakness in the Preakness
Los Angeles, June 17, 2017—When American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, he effectively ended the discussion on expanding the spacing between Triple Crown races. He is indeed the long-awaited superior specimen capable of winning not only 3 Grade I races in 5 weeks, but also 4 in 8 weeks.
Science and technology confirmed that assessment even before the horse ever raced. This inside information was revealed by Joe Drape
who reported, "When Mr. Seder and Ms. Miller [bloodstock agents for the horse's owner] scanned the colt’s heart and spleen, when they checked his airways, Mr. Seder saw what he described as a memorable cardiovascular system."
It will be said of the new champion's own progeny that their "fodder was a mudder" after his Preakness victory in a downpour that seemingly targeted the event, including terrifying thunder propitiously tuned out by the winner's earplugs, those in the know, anyway.
American Pharoah was the only horse this year to compete in all three legs; facing only four of the 18 rivals in the second leg. Because the close-up 2nd and 3rd-place Derby finishers were among them, it didn't figure to be a "gimme" for the Derby winner. But between the weather and 14 "skippers," it turned out otherwise. Five tried to challenge the champion again in the longer Belmont but all passed on the opportunity to succeed at a more familiar distance at which they were proven competitors.
When serious threats from returning rivals Frosted and Materiality failed to materialize in the final leg, heavily favored American Pharoah fulfilled the dream of most American racing fans starved for equine royalty.
But how likely is history to repeat itself next year? Or the year after that?
Will New York Racing Association management get another opportunity to manipulate attendance in the name of customer service? When will the streak of consecutive Triple Crown attempts be broken? Would a Belmont without an eligible crown contender render the event mediocre, even meaningless?
The question then becomes does the Preakness remain a rubber stamp opportunity for the favored Derby winner, or can it be revitalized to test him further? Another query concerns whether a Preakness defeat of the Derby winner deflate interest in Thoroughbred racing itself?
Scaled bonuses to Derby starters who finish 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in the Preakness might prove a sufficient incentive to increase participation in Baltimore. Extending a monetary incentive to any previous Grade 1 winners could also improve the quality of competition. Re-setting Triple Crown interest when the Derby winner fails in Maryland is potentially the most effective option.
This plan would involve using the Preakness as the first leg of a bonus-incentivized alternative three-race series. The two outcomes here is that it will either sustain and grow interest in racing’s glamour division, or in some way will diminish the Triple Crown itself.
In the 67-year period since Citation was crowned in 1948, there have been 24 TC attempts and on 41 occasions a horse won at least two TC legs:
1. Twenty Derby and Preakness Winners
2. Ten Preakness and Belmont Winners
3. Seven Derby and Belmont Winners
4. Four Triple Crown Winners
Who would bet against a member of group #2, including Capot, Native Dancer, Nashua, Damascus, Little Current, Risen Star, Hansel, Tobasco Cat, Point Given or Afleet Alex winning the next, or fourth leg as it were?
A new final leg could be conducted four weeks after the Belmont. It could promoted as the fourth leg of a "Grand Slam" series for three year olds. The Stronach Group has employed multi-race bonuses in the past, so its Santa Anita property seems a potential candidate to host a 10-furlong Grade I event. Monmouth, Saratoga, or Del Mar could fill that bill as well.
This approach could benefit the NYRA as well, especially in years where the same horse didn't win both previous legs. Perhaps the above example is too small a sample but the odds against a TC attempt are about 2-1. With the re-set option, a more meaningful Belmont Stakes seems assured.
Bonuses are part of the incentives currently being offered to attract American Pharoah for his next start, so a future "Grand Slam" has some merit. According to the Paulick Report
, Monmouth hosts the Haskell Invitational Aug. 2.
Saratoga wasn't mentioned even though the Travers is scheduled a week later than the Pacific Classic at the same distance. At nine furlongs, the Haskell would seem the best opportunity for those daring to challenge the champ whose superiority is more likely to prevail at 10 furlongs.
Despite the presence of older horses, the Pacific Classic scheduled 20 days after the Haskell would probably attract a less than stellar group of elders given the absence of such luminaries as Shared Belief and California Chrome.
The Breeders' Cup Classic, however, is the ultimate goal and for two years in succession the most effective route for three-year-olds has been the Travers followed by the Pennsylvania Derby. This year the calendar dictates that the Travers will come later in the month, reducing the spacing between those two races.
Given American Pharoah's mastery of Belmont, I’m betting his path to the Classic will be the Haskell followed by the Jockey Club Gold Cup. What say you?
Written by Indulto