As done the last two years, this blog will review the rules with respect to their impact on horseplayers. While, the vast majority of the rule proposals this year address breeding and registration issues, there are some issues which impact racing. Unfortunately, an issue which benefits the horseplayer, a fair start rule, is not proposed this year not that this surprises me as a fair start rule has the potential of costing tracks and horsemen money while benefiting the horseplayer. Of course, if individual states approve fair start rules, it will be the practice for the particular state.
It is important to remember the USTA rules are basically model rules; individual states adopt their own rules. While a state may refer to the USTA rule when making their own rules, state rules take precedence and USTA rules apply only if an individual state's set of rules don't address the issue.
Without further ado, let's go over the rule changes and how I would vote for each proposal.
- A proposal to amend Rule 18, Section 1 - Racing and Track Rules by considering the following a violation of the rules "Failure to make a reasonable effort to keep holes closed". - FOR. This has been a common complaint of horseplayers, that horses find holes to easily in a race as drivers give certain drivers a hole to tuck into if they are from the outside. It is one thing if a driver finds a hole due to a horse not being able to keep up; it is another thing when a driver takes up his horse to make the hole for the other driver.
- A proposal to add a new subsection to Rule 18, Section 1 which mandates "Any horse pulled to the outside must make a reasonable effort to advance its position. Driver may not be half in or half out and block the outer flow. If a driver races half in or half out or just pulls to the outside and just sits there would be considered violating the rules. - FOR. If a horse pulls to the outside it should be attempting to advance and they should not sit half in or half out which in effect causes confusion to trailing drivers. This has been a common complaint regarding racing at the Meadowlands this past year and undoubtedly occurs elsewhere.
- A proposal to amend Rule 18 Section 12 to the following "Any trainer shall have the option to race a trotter with or without hopples at the trainers discretion if the horse had qualified in their lifetime with and without hopples". - FOR, with modifications. I agree if a horse has shown it can race with or without hopples, it should be the trainer's discretion how to race the horse without having to qualify once again. However, I do have problems with this proposal. First of all the proposal talks about trotters and I realize 95% of the time it would be for trotters. If such a rule change should be made, it should also apply to pacers who have raced both free legged or with hopples. In addition, if a multi-heat race, a horse should be required to race with or without hopples in all heats they are eligible for. Lastly, the protection of not being able to change the length of the hopples during a multi-heat race or having a head pole protrude beyond a horse's nose must remain.
- A proposal to amend Rule 10 (Claiming Races) Section 9 (dealing with the voiding of claims) by having post race urine and.or blood samples marked as "priority" and delivered to the testing lab within 24 hours of collection; a successful claimant automatically waives his or her right to void a claim once a horse has made a start for them; funds for the purchase of a claiming horse be distributed once test samples come back negative or the horse starts in a race. - FOR. This proposal will speed up the process of testing samples of horses being claimed so a claim may be voided promptly, not after a horse has made some starts for the new owners. If a new owner can't wait for accelerated lab work to come back, then they should lose their right to void a claim. It seems to be a common sense proposal.
- A proposal to add to Rule 14 - Declaration to Start and Drawing Horses to add a new subsection which would allow a judge to scratch a horse if a driver change is made within the hour before the race in matinee, qualifying and county fair races. - AGAINST. Apparently at some tracks, drivers who were not licensed and qualified to drive have been able to race a horse. I understand safety is an issue, however there should be lists that the judges should have access to which list which drivers have a matinee, qualifying, amateur, or full license. How long does it take for a judge to check a name against a list. If a person is not on the list, the person should not be allowed to drive. Ir seems to me this rule is being proposed because of the inability of a racing office to do their job.
- A proposal to make it illegal to obliterate permanent identification markings assigned by the USTA or Standardbred Canada. - FOR. It makes it harder for a horse protected by the SOS, Full Circle programs or the Pleasure horse registration.
- A proposal to amend Rule 24 to change the timing of races from fifths of seconds to one hundredths of seconds. - AGAINST. Yes, we can time races in hundreths of seconds, but with the rest of the standardbred world outside of North America timing races in tenths of seconds, it would be more appropriate to change to tenths of seconds ot standardize timing which would be better for the future of global simulcasting. If all standardbred racing juristictions changed to hundreths of seconds, I would have no problem with this rule. Also, there is no indication Standardbred Canada would change their timing method. Any timing change should be made in conjunction with Standardbred Canada.
- A proposal to require foals under 17 months to be premanently identified and have parentage verified before issuing an export certificate. - FOR. Without this rule change, it is conceivable that someone could pass off a foal of an American sire and dam as a foal of a sire and dam in the country being exported to. This rule change would prevent fraud being committed.
- A proposal to make the conversion of a horse's registration from racing to pleasure horse apply to the horse and/or offspring separate. - ABSTAIN. Currently a horse that has been issued a pleasure registration may not be used for breeding. The proposal would allow a horse to be banned from racing but allowed to be used for breeding unless the prior owner has clearly forbidden it. Quite honestly, I have mixed feelings on this. The last thing we need are more stallions and broodmares, however if a horse may be used for breeding purposes it may save it from slaughter as the horse has additional value. Odds are if the horse has any commercial value, the original owner would not register the horse as a pleasure horse. I would propose in the rule that any horse with a pleasure horse registration may have their foals registered with the USTA as a pleasure horse; thus proving its lineage but keeping it from racing.
- A proposal to change who is the breeder is if an unregistered horse sold in a lien or sherriff sale. FOR - Currently, the rules list the breeder as the owner or lessee of the dam at the time of breeding. Why should that person get any breeder awards if someone else paid the stud fee?
Rule 18 is a proposal to ban the consideration of any rule changes after the district meetings have been completed and before the annual meeting. This is being proposed to clarify the board's authority to introduce rules which were not previously discussed.