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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Plea to the USTA's Board of Directors

With the upcoming meeting of the USTA Board of Directors around the corner, I would like to make the following plea to the Directors of the USTA to consider the following items for action at this year's meeting in an effort to begin the process required to globalize the sport, so we may begin to standardize harness racing as close as we can. These steps will help make our racing product more desirable for international simulcasting plus allow us to make the sport more attractive to a new generation of fans and horseplayers. I realize change in the industry tends to evolve slowly, these proposals take that into account. Even better, the cost involved in implementing these recommendations is not a major expenditure.

Change the Timing of Races to Tenths of a Second - I know there is a proposal to change the timing of races to hundredths of a second, instead of our current timing of fifths of a second. In the past this proposal has been rejected, partially because it required each horse to be individual timed; something not in this year's proposal. While there may be temptation to approve this change, I would ask the appropriate committee modify the existing proposal so we time races in tenths of a second. If every other country outside of North America times races in tenths of a second, wouldn't it make sense to adopt a global standard with regards to timing instead of establishing a standard unique to North America? In addition, when determining the race time of other horses in a race, anything more than a head up to half a length should be considered a tenth of a second slower and anything more than half a length to a full length should be considered two tenths of a second slower.

Some people may argue that hundredths of a second is more accurate which can't be denied, but do we really need to be that accurate? I think not. I think adopting a global standard is more important.

Charge the Rules Committee to Review the Existing Rules and Where Necessary, Propose New Rules to Facilitate Monté Racing in Time for the 2013 Annual Meeting - I believe North America is ready to accept monté racing as an acceptable form of racing for standardbreds if rolled out correctly. Last year, there was a new attempt to introduce monté racing with an exhibition race at Yonkers Raceway. In the past, the attempt to introduce this form of racing failed, likely because people did not see a future for it other than as an exhibition event. I believe if the USTA showed they were seriously committed to racing under saddle, individuals would start taking it more seriously. I understand it may be another year or two until we are ready for pari-mutuel wagering on monté races but without rules, it can't happen. Hence, I ask that you have the Rules Committee to review the existing rules and where it is appropriate, propose rule changes and additions required to facilitate monté racing, including a new classification of licensing for those who would compete in such races.

Granted many states adopt their own rules for racing, but by the USTA adopting rules for racing under saddle, not only are you providing those states with model rules which they may adopt or modify, it would show the industry the USTA is serious about promoting racing under saddle; hence trainers would be more willing to train horses for this style of racing. I would suggest in 2012 and 2013 the USTA coordinate with tracks a circuit of racing under saddle races where horses may race in exhibition races using the new rules to be adopted and introduce this form of racing to the wagering public. Adoption of these rules in 2013 would allow the individual states to approve pari-mutuel wagering on monté races so in 2014, we can have this circuit of racing under saddle visit tracks and conduct pari-mutuel races. Initially, racing under saddle will likely need to be conducted on a circuit as the thoroughbred industry has a circuit for steeplechase races, but eventually, we can see monté racing being accepted as much as our sulky races. This form of wagering would also be marketable in foreign markets for simulcasting,

Have the USTA Maintain Mile Rates - As racetracks introduce more odd distance races, the time has come for the USTA to maintain mile rates for purposes of determining records and for past performance purposes. The advantage of mile rates is obvious; one of the reasons gamblers don't wager as much on odd distance races as they do on other races is they are harder to handicap. If mile rates were available, gamblers would have a vital piece of handicapping information. Mile rates for odd distance races should be maintained on a seasonal and lifetime basis. At this point, I would not mandate tracks use this information in their past performance lines, but have the information available if a track wishes to use it (once approved by their racing commissions if needed). The mile rate would be available for each race line but would be reported in the year to date and lifetime statistics only if the mile rate was the result of a win at the current race's particular distance. By maintaining mile rates, it again makes the races more attractive to foreign audiences who are used to handicapping by kilometer rates.

While the third proposal would require some changes to USTA systems, these changes should not be significant. As for the other changes, the costs should be minimal. However, by taking these steps, we will position racing to move forward and towards the global model of harness racing which not only offers our gamblers more variety to attract a new market of gamblers and fans in the future; it also makes the product more acceptable to foreign markets, allowing our racetracks an additional source of revenue for purse accounts and operating expenses

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