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Monday, January 31, 2011

Could Federal Intervention Be Racing's Salvation?

What is the major difference between harness racing in the United States and France?  French trotting is operated by the French Government.  One central group, Cheval Francais, controls the entire sport in France.  Unfortunately, in the United States this is not possible as racing is left to be run at the state level and with eighteen states hosting harness racing, it means there are eighteen different organizations running the show.  Needless to say each group is running things to their own benefit forcing a lack of a standard policy with regards to rules and scheduling in each state.

We can't get states to agree to  race schedules coordinated between states; we can't keep undesirables in one state from racing in another state.  Instead of spreading the race meets around with limited runs ,we have at times twenty tracks racing at the same time.  Everytime the USTA attempts to limit stud books, there is the threat of a court fight.  Clearly, the sport is its own worst enemy as everyone has their own self-interests clouding their decisions.

I know the standardbred industry fears federal regulation primarly because what would now take eighteen separate efforts to ban horse racing from the PETA-groups would be consolidated into a single effort, the possibility of being required to microchip their horses would make it easier to track what is really happening with standardbreds but the fact is federal regulation, with an anti-trust exemption may be what is needed to protect the survivability of the sport.

Let's assume that the USTA became the federal agency for regulating harness racing.  Rather than allowing every stallion from becoming breeding stock, the USTA could have a stud book where acceptance into the book would require certain standards.  A USTA could set up a master schedule for all harness tracks to race logical race meets at specific times so there are not too many tracks racing at the same time.  Miscreants, after being given their due process rights to a hearing can be forever banned from the sport throughout the country   Likewise as in France, the recognition that standardbreds are less popular could result in a similar scheduling for the standardbred prime time being fall and winter while the thoroughbreds get the spring and summer.

Yes, the Interstate racing compact may standardized rules ,but the power to regulate remain with the states.  Each state will be looking to maximize the interests of their own state.  A federal agency, will hear all sides but their ruling would hopefully be fairer to all.  More importantly, federal regulation may allow racing to compete against alternate gaming interests of the state. 

1 comment:

The_Knight_Sky said...

I am surprised the use of microchips has not caught on in the parimutuel sports.

Instead we have horse identifiers doing (or not doing) their jobs.
See the recent Sunland Park episode.