Harness racing is getting plenty of press these days. Press it does not need thanks to the David Brooks trial in New York concerning insider trading and other related charges. As a result of this trial, the general public which if at all familiar with harness racing, is treated to news of standardbred trainers testifying for the prosecution (last week it was Carl Conte and it is now reported that Brett Pelling will be returning from New Zealand to testify as other harness-related people are expected to do). While this case does not include charges of race fixing or drugging, to the uninformed (our target market) it may as well have. All they hear is the phrase 'harness racing' discussed within the context of a criminal trial. To many of the general public, it may as well have been race fixing.
So once again, harness racing's reputation is dragged through the mud. What happened before the indictment was issued was unavoidable but what about after? Could something have been done to minimize the bad publicity we are now seeing (after all, if there was a major stakes race last year, odds were Bulletproof was picking up a check)? Was the transfer of horses from stables controlled by David Brooks to stables controlled by others in his family investigated to make sure these were legitimate transfers? Where David Brooks' family members fit for licensing? Based on the recent action by the Ontario Racing Commission which was then honored by the USTA, I suspect the answer may be 'No'.
Since the USTA is a breed registry and some states don't require USTA membership, the problem lies with the state regulators; they have the ability to investigate and enforce any decisions. Here is where a national racing compact can help. Right now, it is up to each state to conduct an investigation. If a compact is set up correctly, one organization with the financal ability to launch an in-depth investigation will be able to do so to help protect the racing industry.
What has happened has happened. The key is to learn from history in order to avoid similar problems in the future.
As a side note, some people are wondering what the problem is with regards to harness racing; why has Bulletproof been put 'on ice'? After all, there is no allegations of race fixing or illegal drugs being used. It boils down to integrity. For an industry where gambling is involved, integrity is paramount, so even if the crimes are alleged in an indictment, a suspension until the issue is resolved is warranted. Other sports do it, why shouldn't we?