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Monday, January 2, 2012

What May Happen if the Industry Doesn't Police Itself Right

We know the industry is unable to police the industry as well as we need it to.  Either we are chasing after the drugs they are using, trainers use bears, or racing commissions lack the will to do what is necessary.

I fear if the industry wants to clean things up, the way tracks use independent contractors (trainers, grooms, drivers), will have to change.  Instead of contractors, these people are going to have to be employees.

Racing commissions will still license these people, but depending on how many days a week a track races, the track will hire a specific number of trainers, drivers and grooms as employees and pay them a salary plus a bonus if the horses finish 1st thru 5th.  In addition, they will hire vets as well.  Owners that wish to have a horse race at that track, will have to select one of the trainers that the track has hired and no one else.  In most states, employees are hired at will, meaning an employer can terminate an employee without cause.  The racing commissions will no longer issue fines and suspensions; they will report all violations to the employer (the track) and employee (trainer, driver, groom, and vet).  In the case of a positive, the trainer still will have the right of having a split sample tested.  Depending on the type of violation or number of violations, the track will have the option to fire the employee at which point if the trainer was the fired employee, the horse owners will have to choose another trainer and the track can higher another trainer to replace the dismissed one.

A schedule of fees will be posted by the track for training and vet expenses.  As an employee a vet will report what medication and treatments were used so the owner(s) can be billed and the trainer will do the same so the owner is billed properly.

The only way a horse trained and driven by a non-employee will be allowed are stakes races, but even then the salary will be paid by the employer track. 

Doing something like this will allow the employees a comfortable living and owners will continue to make their money on purses on purses. 

Think what would happen if a person got a serious violation.  Since there are no suspensions or fines, they would still be allowed a hearing if they wish to appeal, but the track will be able to just fire the employee and if it is an 'at will' state there is little recourse for the employee.  Let's say someone is lucky to be an employee of the Meadowlands and is fired, the trainer in this case will apply for a job at Chester Downs.  They contact the Meadowlands and ask if the employee is eligible for rehiring.  The Meadowlands says 'yes' or 'no' (code to avoid lawsuits) and they may or may not get hired.  Before you know it, if the trainer doesn't change his ways, he will be earning a lot less as an employee of a track like Ocean Down or will be changing careers as no one will hire someone with his record of employers.

Now granted, the tracks will have some new expenses.  As employers, they will have to offer benefits and pay employer taxes.  However, this may be the only way integrity may be maintained.  The only recourse a fired employer will have is filing an unemployment claim.

The one problem is since tracks usually don't have backstretches, the track will have to lease the stalls and assign them to the trainers.  In addition, they will need to hire people to make sure non-employees don't show up.

For sure, this is not the desired model, but if we can't rein in the cheaters the way we do things now, something else needs to happen.  Perhaps the employer/employee model may be the answer.

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