‘A Once in a Lifetime Chance’ for Our Sport

August 14, 2022

Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act the Focus of 70th Round Table Conference

In the keynote address of The Jockey Club’s 70th Annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, which concluded Sunday, Lisa Lazarus, chief executive officer of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, called for the industry to rally around the authority as she provided an update on the authority’s first six weeks.

“We have one industry, and one chance,” said Lazarus. “Let’s have vigorous debates about the shoeing rule or riding crop guidelines. But let’s never forget the real adversaries are the bad actors who tarnish our sport, anyone who is cavalier about horse welfare, and those who want to shut down horse racing for good.”

Returning to an in-person event for the first time since 2019, the conference was held at the Saratoga Springs City Center in Saratoga Springs, New York, and streamed on jockeyclub.com, The Jockey Club’s Facebook page, and through multiple industry outlets. Chairman Stuart S. Janney III presided over the conference.

In response to Lazarus, Janney focused his closing remarks on the lawsuits regarding HISA and how these legal challenges are draining industry resources. Specifically, he took issue with the Jockeys’ Guild and other groups for filing lawsuits against HISA, especially given the benefits it will bring to jockeys, including medical directors at every racetrack and standardized concussion protocols.

“HISA is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to grow the sport through increased integrity and enhanced safety for horse – and rider,” Janney said. “Folks, it is time to come together on this. HISA is good for our sport. HISA is legal. HISA is here to stay.”

According to Lazarus, she and her team expect the Federal Trade Commission to finalize and approve the Anti-Doping and Medication Control program’s rules this fall, and a thorough education effort is planned so that racing participants understand the rules, their application, and consequences for violations.

Future plans also call for the development of advisory groups to enhance stakeholder engagement and to promote transparency through the addition of information such as the authority’s strategic goals and objectives, the work of its committees, budgets, and staffing responsibilities to its website.

Lazarus was introduced with a video message by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY), a key supporter of HISA.

“We need to make sure that horse racing in America and New York grows, thrives, and works fairly for all,” Schumer said. “This reform makes sure that the future of our industry is bright for years to come.”

Dennis Madsen, head of racing for the Swedish Horseracing Authority, presented on Scandinavia’s new crop rule, which prohibits the use of the crop. He described the history of crop regulations in Scandinavia and the rationale behind the new rule.

Madsen referenced two surveys conducted by ATG, the Swedish horse racing totalisator board, in which 25% of respondents reported that they actively refrain from wagering on races from specific countries in which they feel horses are being treated badly. In addition, 30% of respondents said that they had noticed cases in the past year in which horses were being mistreated; more than 90% of those answers referenced “too hard or too frequent use of the whip.”

Since the implementation of the crop rule this year, Swedish racing has seen fewer cases of minor interference, and leading trainers and jockeys in previous years have remained the same. There has also been an increase in wagering, and television outlets have reported that they feel they can broadcast to a wider audience.

“The handicapper estimates that the horses do not run slower,” Madsen said. “We see no changes in the results that would justify any other conclusions.”

Dr. Lauren Stiroh, managing director of NERA Economic Consulting, reviewed her findings from an analysis of economic trends in Thoroughbred racing and breeding over the last 30 years, specifically how trends in areas such as stud fees, purses, and number of breeders have compared to fluctuations in the foal crop.

According to her study, most of the variation in the foal crop over time can be explained by changes in handle, the number of races, and macroeconomic conditions, indicating that the decline in the foal crop is more related to changes in the demand of horse racing rather than changes in supply variables that affect the economics of buying, selling, and racing horses. The greatest parallel was seen between the foal crop trends and real handle, which is handle adjusted for inflation.

Additionally, Stiroh found that other economic indications in the racing industry such as average purse earnings, average prices at auction, and average stud fees have not mirrored the declines seen in the foal crop. Her main takeaways from her analysis were a need to further examine the factors that have made horse racing vulnerable to competition from other sports and forms of gambling.

Tom Rooney, president and chief operating officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), talked about his goals for the organization and how he plans to leverage his political experience to benefit the Thoroughbred industry. Among recent changes are the opening of an NTRA office in Washington, D.C., and hiring internal lobbyists. The NTRA’s current focus is on tax incentive and depreciation laws and HISA.

“If horse racing is to continue to be successful in future years, the public needs to be assured that things like racetrack safety, uniform standards for anti-doping and medication, and a high degree of integrity are our highest priorities,” he said.

James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, interviewed John Penza, a director of International Investigations at 5 Stones intelligence and a former special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, about his experiences as an investigator and how the federal cases of horse doping compared to other sports investigations. The main similarity is the motivation behind the crimes.

“The money to be made is incredibly tempting,” Penza said.

Penza’s advice to the industry was to be a whistleblower when observing violations and to report them to HISA.

“All of you can be aware, when you see a violation, make a notification. Once the industry begins to trust HISA, that’s the key to success.”

Shannon Kelly, executive director of The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, spoke on the daily struggles faced by the Thoroughbred industry’s workforce and how the Safety Net Foundation assists those in need.

“We need our backstretch to be a place that people want to work, where they feel safe and welcome,” Kelly said. “Emergencies will always exist, and the Safety Net will be there to step in, but we need to make sure that our workers’ basic needs to live on a daily basis are met.”

Carl Hamilton, president of The Jockey Club Information Systems and chairman of BloodHorse, delivered the report on the activities of The Jockey Club, which included the multitude of ways that The Jockey Club is assisting HISA.

As part of earlier remarks, Janney announced the two latest recommendations by the Thoroughbred Safety Committee:

To ensure the veracity of medication reporting that is disclosed to regulatory authorities, the committee calls for comparisons between out-of-competition samples and medical records. Discrepancies should trigger investigations and sanctions for those responsible parties if appropriate.

The second recommendation is for all racetrack and breeder associations to appoint an aftercare liaison to facilitate the smooth transition of horses at the end of racing or breeding careers into second or third careers.

A video replay of the Round Table Conference is available on The Jockey Club website, and an official transcript of the proceedings will be available this week.

Jockey Club Press Release

Photo: HISA Logo

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