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Sunday, August 10, 2014

As Goes the Jockey Club, So Goes Harness Racing?

At the Jockey Club's annual round table, Chairman Ogden Mills Phipps announced the Jockey Club will be seeking federal regulation of thoroughbred racing in an effort to restore integrity and improve the perception of thoroughbred racing.  As Phipps stated, “We need the National Uniform Medication Program to be implemented in every racing state. We need uniformity of rules and greatly improved lab standards. We need a penalty structure that is strong enough to be a meaningful deterrent —  not one that would allow a trainer to amass literally dozens of violations over the course of his career and continue training. And, we need to eliminate the use of all drugs on race day".

I know of no racing fan which would dispute the goals of the Jockey Club; in fact I dare say almost all fans would be in support of such legislation.  However, make no mistake, if the Jockey Club is successful in its goals for federal regulation, it is fair to assume standardbred and quarter horse racing will be dragged along like it or not.  Let's face it, compared finances and influence, standardbred racing would be considered a poor cousin to the thoroughbred industry.  Plus, when it comes to which segment of the racing industry has the 'moral highground', thoroughbred racing has the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to lay claim to whereas the standardbred industry lacks a similar program.  Partner with the quarter horse industry if they oppose the Jockey Clubs' effort, do you think joining forces with a group which openly supports horse slaughter is going to win standardbred racing any friends?

Quite honestly, if the standardbred industry was dragged along, it wouldn't be such a bad thing (assuming Uniform Medication Rules were breed-specific).  Let's face, racing has failed miserably in ridding itself of cheats, and detecting the latest designer drug being used on race horses of which blame falls just as much if not more on the individual states which under fund testing and lack the will to hit those pharmaceutical trainers hard with penalties, whether it be financial or time constraints which factor into the equation.  

Not that federal intervention would be such a bad thing.  My only concern would be whether or not uniform drug guidelines would be breed-specific or the one size fits all.  Many would be concerned about race day administration of Lasix, and (in those states which allow) bute becoming a thing of the past.  This may force breeders to look to expand the bloodlines to get more of an influence from non-bleeders.

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