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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Talk about necessity being the mother of invention.

With the specter of a government shutdown looming, Congress was forced to approve funding to keep the business of government moving.

Not only did lawmakers approve appropriations to make that happen but also attached a racing omnibus bill to the trillion-dollar stimulus package that will help provide a measure of economic relief for Americans.

So those suffering from the distress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will get some badly needed aid and horse racing just might have a future in this country with proper execution, which is easier said than done.

The Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act which needed Congressional approval was made possible by a two-day extension that kept the federal government running. By attaching the omnibus bill to the Stimulus package, needed funding became available to make the HISA concept work.

With the Federal Trade Commission acting as the umbrella agency, a Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority would be created to overhaul racing’s drug and medication rules and equine drug testing procedures. The United States Anti-Doping Agency will act as HISA’s testing and enforcement arm.

USADA will replace the patchwork quilt of oversight that has existed on the state and regional levels since forever. Not only were those methods of oversight inadequate, regional testing lacked the science to keep up pharmacologically but, in their defense, were badly underfunded.

Fortunately for the horse racing industry, this landmark legislation had bipartisan support, the Senate giving its approval Monday. The House of Representatives had voted its approval on September 29.

The bill had the backing of prominent stakeholders in the industry, led by The Jockey Club and other major racing organizations but their efforts were often hamstrung by the actions of national horsemen’s groups.

At least now those horsemen who depend on veterinarians to help insure the success of their ‘programs’ can take comfort in the fact they finally will be able to enjoy the benefits of the uniformity they have been seeking for years.

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9 Responses

      1. Dan, this is great stuff.

        On behalf of the HRI Faithful, thanks for the link. I knew there was some mechanism for funding and this makes it clear, thanks again!

  1. $600 per horse??

    Actually, I have no idea, that’s for people with actual jobs to do their jobs and make it work.

    Right now testing in some states is the equivalent of a wink and a nod.

    All anyone seems to come up with is barn contamination–and that’s in a state that has demonstrated it cares, whatever the approach…

  2. A bill filled with PORK.
    Including for Horseracing.
    Billions in aid for private interests and for Overseas.
    Drain The Swamp.

  3. John: No matter the profession, the process of “making the sausage” is not tranquil nor pretty. Since the passage of the HISA ( and the COVID stimulus) last night, all manner of people ( including DB above), have managed to inject their opinions into the particular parts of the legislation that bothers them. That is what the First Amendment is all about. Everyone is entitled to offer their opinion as to matters of the operation of our Government. However, one person’s “pork” is another person’s livelihood. As always, it just comes down to whose OX gets gored by the bill at hand.
    However, any complaints about the various elements in HISA are just sour grapes at best, but are more likely the last gasps of the privileged few who have benefitted from the patchwork of regulations from some 30 odd states who regulate horse racing. Since the advent of the IHA in 78, racing has been evolving from a “local” business to a “national” endeavor. Thoroughbred racing is a “National” sport. A person sitting in their Living Room, in Nassau County, NY, is just as likely to have thousands invested in a race in San Diego County , CA, as at the local track in Elmont. There is no reason why each state should have its own testing and enforcement mechanism. If we learned anything from this COVID-affected year, its that the ADW method of wagering is the primary source of wagering in the US, and that each racing jurisdiction is dependent on wagering dollars coming in from all corners of the Country ( and the world).
    Nevertheless, if there is one major issue left open in the HISA bill, it is the funding mechanism for the infrastructure needed to operate the National drug and safety adjudication process. I favor a progressive surcharge on Stallion fees, with a the highest fees imposed based on the age of the Stallion involved. In this regard, a 3yo, like Authentic, would be charged a larger fee because he was taken off the track at an early age. Accordingly, there would be a lesser fee on a Tom’s D’Etat, who is entering Stallion services at age 8. Of course, there will be much discussion of this issue over the next 12-18 months when HISA becomes effective. However, the ONE group of industry participants that MUST NOT be asked to contribute are this Nation’s Horseplayers. From an already onerous takeout structure, to foolish Jackpot bets, to old fraudulent OTB surcharges, the bettors have long ago made their contribution “at the office”. We should never be asked again to bail out the industry which has long taken us for granted!

    1. Fram, you might have noticed I didn’t engage on the “pork” issue. Lawmakers have been working on this legislation since either late 2012, or early 2013. This is a gift to the people, the horseplayers who make the game go.

      As for any more needed funding, we wrote–certainly last year, possibly 2018–that horses sold at auction, at say, arbitrarily, that attract bids of $250,000 or more, that a tax (deductible), again, say at .025 percent be assessed on those purchases.

      Those kind of bids come from people who went to play the game at the highest level and should pay for the privilege of having a level playing field for everyone; it’s in their best interests to do so.

      After all, this has become a breeders’ game whereby winning at the graded stakes level because a future sire’s best marketing tool. Animal rights groups should also being paying some of this freight.

      And since protecting the horse is also protecting an investment, and more stringent rules and testing improves safety conditions for riders, and since both trainers and jockeys share in a percentage of purses, they too should make a very small contribution, on a sliding scale, of course.

      But I have a nagging feeling that that the player once again will be forced to should the bill. That would be great, then the industry can watch as more fans and players walk away…

  4. Plenty of places at the pork barrel table. Apply now ! Be sure to avoid conflicts of interest. Racing demands people with only the highest ethical standards.

    5 Independent members out of the total 9 members

    At least 4 Independent members out of the total 7 members

    At least 4 Independent members out of the total 7 members

    The nominating committee of the Authority shall be comprised of 7 independent members selected from business, sports, and academia.

    CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.—To avoid conflicts of interest, the following individuals may not be selected as a member of the Board or as an independent member of a nominating or standing committee under this section: (1) An individual who has a financial interest in, or provides goods or services to, covered horses. (2) An official or officer— (A) of an equine industry representative; or (B) who serves in a governance or policy making capacity for an equine industry representative. (3) An employee of, or an individual who has a business or commercial relationship with, an individual described in paragraph (1) or (2). (4) An immediate family member of an individual described in paragraph (1) or (2).

  5. Certainly lots to chew on, Dan. It is my understanding from reports much earlier where it was discussed that six horsemen and six federal regulators would have seats at the table with a chairman to break ties.

    I’m sure we’ll get much deeper into the weeds at time passes, but thanks for giving this issue considerable thought–possibly even more consideration than some industry stakeholders…

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