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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

Belmont Horsemen Concerned About State of the Game

One day after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his support for a bill authorizing the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to suspend horse racing licenses to protect the health and safety of horses and riders, Senator Diane Feinstein, who has twice called for the suspension of racing, participated in a fact-finding session with Santa Anita officials.

Meanwhile, three hours and 3,000 miles away, trainer and analyst Tom Amoss, who will saddle Kentucky Oaks winner and Acorn Stakes favorite, Serengeti Empress, on the Belmont Stakes undercard, surprised reporters on an NTRA conference call with his take not only on the California issue but the state of the game as well. 

By John Pricci

“[The Santa Anita situation] is a bit mislabeled,” Amoss said when asked for his opinion. “If people don’t recognize the issue then they’re just not paying attention. Racing in the United States is at a real crossroads. If the industry doesn’t send a unified message loud and clear that we love our horses, we’re in big trouble…

“The game is fractured and it’s as much about medication reform and all that goes with it. We need to recognize that it’s not about what I think or about what the majority of trainers think about Lasix, it’s about what the public thinks. It’s not about Lasix versus no Lasix; it’s about horse racing or no horse racing…

“I’m fifty-seven years-old and I’ve been on the backside since I was 15. I had every job on the racetrack you can have. I’m a big believer in Lasix and even though I don’t agree with [a possible Lasix ban] I’ll be able to make that compromise because I realize that it’s about the public’s perception of our sport… 

“What’s going on in California now is the great experiment. For those of us who believe that the vast majority of our horses bleed, we’re going to find out one way or another. I’m firmly in the corner of Lasix but I don’t care, they could get rid of it all…

“In the end it’s important for the public not to think that we’re drugging our horses, no matter how therapeutic. I’m of the mindset that maybe it needs to go. I’m willing to make that compromise. It’s about love for the animal and we must do everything to send a message loud and clear in one unified voice. If not, we’re in trouble.”

On the call with Amoss was Dale Romans and Mark Casse, and Casse was asked about the current state of the game. “I’m extremely concerned,” he said. “I think they made some mistakes in California, and it has nothing to do with Lasix… 

“What I’d love is for everyone to look at Woodbine. I like to run my horses, and I’ve raced in a lot of different areas. I know what goes on with synthetic and dirt tracks. Woodbine has some of the most lenient drug rules, and the most lenient procedures, but they have the least amount of breakdowns by far… 

“I think we should look at those statistics and ask whether we’re barking up the wrong tree, chasing the wrong rabbit. We need to dig a little deeper. Holding food and water for 24 hours is much worse than Lasix. It may be better for perception, but it’s not going to be better for the horse or for racing…

“People trying to decide these things have never trained a horse or been around them. I’d rather they look at track surfaces and try to improve that. I have been outspoken about banning Lasix but I’m with Tom. If it’s good for the game after the studies and investigations and if banning Lasix is what needs to be done, then let’s do it. But it will be purely perception.” 

Industry Unity Calls for Action, Not More Endless Study

In light of the above comments, we were wondering if and when the newly formed Consortium of Racetracks is going to transplant a heart into the Thoroughbred industry tin man by taking a bold stand against the laws in individual states and act in the best interests of the sport.

What is it that they say? It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission? 

After all it’s not as if settled law isn’t broken every day by a handful of political appointees who feel free to ignore Congressional subpoenas or, for that matter, William Barr’s Justice Department’s ignoring the request of a Federal judge for added documentation upon which to 

While not a novel idea by any means, maybe the newly created Consortium of the country’s leading racetracks can establish a league office and name a term-limited Commissioner to solve problems by force-feeding unity to the industry. Consider thoughts expressed by Rick Porter on the topic of horse slaughter this week:

“I’m sure that racing is looking at solutions to all of its many problems,” commented Porter on an online website this week. “A national ruling office with a Commissioner like baseball, football and most national American sports is the first and simple answer. We don’t need individual state agencies with different rules. 

“We can come up with a solution to the slaughter issue without much of a problem if we have a Commissioner with good assistants working with him. He must have control over the owners, trainers and most importantly the racetracks. We have a solution for aftercare of racehorses indefinitely. 

“The drug problems would be fixed and we would have a nationally renowned testing organization that is in charge of all testing in America. They would have authority to test randomly as well as after the race. It can all be changed with the reorganization of the authorities with a national empowered office with a Commissioner.”

Appointing a Racing Czar has never come close to a starting gate but anxious times require desperate measures. The Czar could lord over a board representing all industry stakeholders. The Commissioner could cobble out a framework from the most sensible existing rules, creating a charter subject to binding arbitration. Only scarecrows need not apply.

©John Pricci,, June 2, 2019, All Rights Reserved

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