“Thoroughbred racing has a long and storied past; it will only have a bright future if we make safety and integrity our top priorities through united reform.”
Breeders’ Cup Press Release
After a series of high-profile issues jeopardized the very existence of our sport, a wide cross-section of leaders representing all aspects of the industry came together to support legislation to address longstanding safety issues in racing. Our legislators agreed change was needed and passed the bipartisan Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), which included provisions for a governing body to oversee its implementation.
The purpose was simple: to address a system that lacked integrity. Before HISA, horsemen endured a dysfunctional state-to-state patchwork of rules which were inconsistently enforced. Thanks to the input of horsemen, owners, breeders, jockeys, racetrack operators, veterinary experts, regulators, and other industry participants across the country, HISA has established a fair, transparent, efficient, and economically sound approach to improving the integrity and safety of the sport. This includes uniform rules and regulations across all states that are in line with international standards, swift adjudication protocols, and a robust anti-doping program and medication controls.
Unfortunately, when presented with this opportunity to finally achieve meaningful reform, certain groups have responded by obstructing the path forward. Rather than offer constructive input, these groups have chosen instead to spread misinformation and drain precious industry resources with costly litigation. Some of those funding the opposition do not even care about racing and are using the debate over HISA as an opportunity to further their own political interests. Enough is enough.
Chief among the offenders is the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. For example, the HBPA falsely claims HISA will put small entities out of business due to the costs associated with implementation. In fact, HISA specifically requires that regional differences are considered; accordingly, its governing body is addressing disparities between large and small operations and helping to identify operational efficiencies that will mitigate any increased costs.
The truth is, the HBPA has offered no solution that adequately addresses the full scope of the industry’s issues, nor does it have any desire to represent its members who support meaningful reform. This has made us wonder who the HBPA really is, and why they don’t want more effective controls on safety and drug use. Many in our industry don’t know that the HBPA and its affiliate groups consider anyone who obtains an ownership license to automatically be a “member” of their organization. Instead of offering members the ability to provide input on its decisions, the HBPA’s insular leadership has weaponized its industry position to oppose vital reform aimed at protecting the very people it claims it represents.
We urge any HBPA members who have horse racing’s best interests at heart to come to the table and engage with HISA’s leaders in pursuit of sustainable change. Follow the example of leaders from a variety of organizations, including the Thoroughbred Owners of California, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. These groups have stepped forward with constructive input and have provided their members with information and support to make the transition to new regulations as seamless as possible.
At the Breeders’ Cup, we have seen firsthand the success that comes with investing in safety and integrity measures. Because of the trust we have built, we have attracted top-tier national and international media rights partners, developed relationships with major new corporate partners, achieved record wagering numbers, and experienced a significant increase in international participation. A sport rich in integrity is going to thrive.
Breeders need owners who want to invest in horses. Owners need trainers to turn raw athleticism into speed and endurance. Trainers need jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, farriers, and dedicated veterinarians to help execute their programs and keep their horses safe and healthy. Everyone needs racetracks to provide the stages on which our athletes compete and where fans who love racing can gather to cheer on their favorites. And we all know bettors are the backbone of the business, as their wagering supports racetrack operations and purses. They deserve to bet on races that are fair.
Under HISA, uniform safety and integrity measures will ensure all participants can be part of racing’s growth and success. Adjusting to the oversight of a national, independent authority may take time, but traditions must evolve if they want to endure. Although Thoroughbred racing has a long and storied past; it will only have a bright future if we make safety and integrity our top priorities through united reform.
HISA has been put in place to provide an opportunity for the sport not only to survive, but to thrive. If you want to see horse racing carry on for generations to come, please join us as we work together to ensure HISA’s successful implementation.
Barbara Banke, Chairman, Breeders’ Cup Limited
Drew Fleming, President & CEO, Breeders’ Cup Limited