There were people discussing Bill Finley's weekend list of winners and losers, where Jeff Gural was considered a winner with the Meadowlands having their first $3 million handle and with Lou Pena dropping his suit against his exclusion. The discussion pointed out that Pena is still training horses at Yonkers Raceway.
Of course the comments got to what is the USTA doing about the cheats in the industry. This train of thought indicates that people refuse to understand what the USTA is and isn't. I can understand the people in the stands making this comment but for people in the industry making this comment shows poor communication between the USTA and their members. So let's go through it again.
From the USTA's own website:
The U.S. Trotting Association is a not-for-profit association of Standardbred owners, breeders, drivers, trainers, and officials, organized to provide administrative, rulemaking, licensing and breed registry services to its members.
Our mission is to:
– License owners, trainers, drivers and officials.
– Formulate the rules of racing.
– Maintain and disseminate racing information and records.
– Serve as the registry for the Standardbred breed.
– Endeavor to ensure the integrity of harness racing.
– Insist on the humane treatment of Standardbreds.
– Promote the sport of harness racing and the Standardbred breed
Nowhere does it say the USTA is the policemen of the sport. As most people know, that power belongs to the individual states. Yes, the USTA may deny membership to some people for various reasons, but when you have some states not requiring USTA membership to participate, it weakens the power to keep certain undesirables from participating. You may see people denied USTA membership racing, but if a state lets the person drive or train, there will be a record in the USTA database indicating a conditional license, often indicating a state is allowing someone to participate but they need to create a license of some type to keep the statistics to maintain the records of the breed.
If people want the USTA to takeover the policing of the sport, two things are going to happen. Dues to participants and racetracks will skyrocket and all states who have harness racing need to approve a compact making the USTA or another national body; lets call it the USRA (United States Racing Association) to control the sport on a national level and administer judgement that all tracks and states must be willing to agree with. It will require states to ceede control of the racing industry, including losing those political patronage jobs and surrender those fees they receive for licensing. With some states or areas such as lower New York state flush with casino money, they may not want such a compact to exist as racing is honky dory for them (for now).
I would suggest the USTA send with license renewals, perhaps on the back of the license, a reminder of what the USTA is and what it isn't so we no longer have people for blaming the USTA for things they have no control of.
Racingbeard.com has a headline regarding The New Lou which shows the alleged successor to Pena near the top of the Meadowlands training standings, my assumption (and can't identify the people in the photo) is they are talking about the Burke Stable. It is a little too early to claim the successor to the alleged exploits of Pena as we just completed the first month of racing; it may be just a case of having their horses ready for the start of the meet. May I point out there are other trainers with a highter UTR; so it is a question of the number of starters this early in the season. If this pace continues, say two months further in the season then we may be talking about something different.
If you are following those who some people are allegedly calling beards, PJ Farley is number two in the training standings though the standings are not overly impressive for him as there are other trainers with higher win percentages and UTRS. I suspect as the season continues he will drop down in the standings. Bearing is problematic, but as long as the horses are transferred to trainers with clean records it is hard to do something about it. The industry needs to come up with rules regarding the transfer of horses from suspended trainers to other trainers to ensure there is something like the financial Chinese wall is erected.
Unfortunately, until horsemen demand such changes, it won't happen.