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Monday, March 4, 2013

The Annual Meeting Concludes

At the final general session of the USTA annual meeting, the following rule changes were approved, though to the race fan, they mean little as they are more administrative issues.:

Proposal 5 - A proposal to amend Rule 17, Section 5, Subsection (c) to read as follows:  "Be at least 14 years of age for an (M) license."  The original proposal called for a minimum age of 16 but it was decided to lower the age to 14.

Proposal 7 - A proposal to amend Rule 26, Section 2(h) by changing to first sentence to read as follows: “the status of a previously registered Standardbred may be changes to Pleasure Horse upon application by the owner and surrender of the Registration Certificate to the USTA.”

Proposal 8 - A proposal to add new section to Rule 20 – STANDARD OF CONDUCT to read as follows: “Any person who shall represent themselves to be the registered owner of a horse knowing said horse to be owned wholly or in part by a person or persons barred or otherwise disqualified from participating in racing shall be suspended from membership in this Association for a minimum of 1 year.”
All other proposed rule changes were rejected with the exception of proposal 6 which calls for the timing of races in hundreths of a second.  This proposal was tabled until next year where it will be considered once again if the person who made the proposall lrequests it.  My take on this is it is unnecessary; a change in timing to tenths of a second would be appropriate provide Standardbred Canada approves a similar proposal as it would align the timing of races with the races conducted outside of North America.

A proposed bylaw change was modified and approved.  Basically anyone subject to an adverse and final ruling regarding the abuse of a horse will automatically be suspended from the USTA for at least one year, perhaps longer depending on the circumstances.  This bylaw is a step in the right direction regarding ensuring the humane treatment of race horses. 

Of disappointment was the lack of discussion regarding slaughter of standardbreds once their 'usefulness' for racing has passed.  Based on comments yesterday, it is clear to see why it was not discusses as comments made regarding federal regulation shows some individuals still consider slaughter to be a legitimate means of disposal of unwanted race horses.  Meanwhile, the thoroughbred industry has developed a program to provide unwanted thoroughbreds a safety net and the standardbred industry has not made a similar commitment.  Yes, there is the SOS and Full Circle programs but they fall far short of the efforts agreed upon by the runners.

At the harness congress, there was a good discussion regarding innovative steps which could be taken to improve the racing product.  Most agree the future of  racing is in technology, as wagering will continue to be done primarily through the Internet and not on-track.  More efforts need to be taken to improve the experience of tablet and phone users and the production of race telecasts need to be stepped up quite a bit to make it more exciting (I would suggest look at how races are broadcast in Europe as a model).  There was a call for horsemen to invest some of their own money in attempting to attract new owners to the sport while one panelist said racing needs to be torn down and rebuilt to appeal to younger individuals.

If there is any take away from this year's annual meeting is the future of racing lies in social media and technology to make the racing experience better over electronic devices.  As much as I believe you need to get people to the track to get them to fall in love with racing, I must agree, the bills are going to be paid off-track. 

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