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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Looking at the Proposed Rule Changes for 2015

The USTA has published the proposals for changing the rules at the upcoming Directors' Meeting in 2015.  Other than the adoption of rules for RUS (currently, they are using recommendations), there are no big blockbuster rule changes on the docket.

As for the rules for RUS, these rules are needed because many states are treating RUS as a novelty due to the lack of official rules by the USTA.  With the USTA adopting rules, many states will treat the requirements for RUS racing seriously, and for those states who have their own rule book, they can adopt in whole or tweak the RUS rules to make them their own and approve the sport for wagering.

Another thing the USTA is doing this year in addition to voting at the district meetings, members have the ability to voice their opinions individually and anonymously to the USTA and its directors regarding proposals via an online survey.  This is a big move for while the district votes are important, in cases where the district leadership dictates the outcome or there is a fear of being different, USTA members will have the ability to make their opinions known.

Proposal 1 - Standardization of pylon heights and distances between them.  A no-brainer.  The proposal will mandate specifications for the size of pylons and the distances between them.  As the proposer of the rule indicates, a standard for pylons not only will bring consistency between tracks, but it will make it easier to enforce the 'inside the pylon' rules.  This proposal should be adopted.

Proposal 2 - Ban a driver from racing in a race where he owns/trains  or has a financial interest in more than one horse when they race uncoupled.  No need to explain where this proposal comes from and for that reason it is pretty evident the proposal should be approved.  After all, in a sport where perception is reality, the last thing we need is the appearance of a driver helping another of his horses in a race to the detriment of the horse he is driving.  The best thing is to have him in the paddock and not on the track for the particular race.

Proposal 3 - Adopting licensing standards for riders.  The first RUS-related rules.  The proposal sets the requirements for licensing.  I realize RUS racing is in its infancy, but  personally, I feel the qualifications of passing a written test and riding in two schooling or workout miles is really not sufficient.  With the limited number of riders at this time, the rule is adequate but down the road the rule should include qualifications for a provisional rider and a full rider, the difference based on the number of satisfactory races ridden in being the determining factor.  In addition, riders should have to race in a certain number of qualifying races to prove their ability to race.  Approve with modification.

Proposal 4 - A proposal to eliminate kicking.  Okay, the rule actually is written to require both feet in the stir-ups except when pulling ear plugs.  In addition to the requirement of both feet in the stir-ups, penalties are specified and get more severe with more violations.  Again, a no-brainer as far as I am concerned, but unfortunately, with states adopting their own rules when it comes to penalties, unless individual states get serious about penalizing repeat offenders, it will be for naught.  In favor for passage.

Proposal 5 - Identifies riding violations in RUS events.  Pretty complete with the exception of one item, the carrying of an electrical device in a race (aka, the buzzer).  Other than that, pretty complete.  Approve with modification to ban the use of an electrical prompt.

Proposal 6 - The weigh-out and weigh-in  of riders in a RUS race.  All riders will be required to race at a weight of 140 lbs (or more).  The rule provides for a disqualification if the rider and their equipment weighs less than 140 lbs after race .  Should be approved.

Proposal 7 - A rule allowing a trainer to add or remove hobbles without qualifying and allow hobble changes (on/off) between races in a multi-heat event.  The title pretty much describes it.  While trainers should have discretion, each horse should have to qualify the first time they race with or without hobbles and thereafter have the ability to change accordingly at the trainer's discretion.  The proposal should be rejected as is.

Proposal 8 - A rule defining what racing under saddle is as well as establish the general requirements such as age of horse, registration, equipment, qualifying standards.  Pretty straightforward. but misses an important situation; there is no adopted standard as to what the program must include therefore, who knows what the program page will look like?  Ideally, adopt with changes to address programs but failing that, adopt as is and revisit next year to standardize what needs to be shown on a program page.

Proposal 9 -  Bar the issuance of registration papers until a foal is permanently identified and parentage is genetically proven.  Should be approved.

Proposal 10 - Modify the fee schedule for non-extended pari-mutuel tracks.  Generally it makes if financially easier for a fair to host racing as the fee will be set at $80.  Yes, a few tracks may pay more but the majority will pay less.  If they can't afford $80, they shouldn't be in the business of conducting harness racing.  Approve.

Eventual outcome.  A pretty subdued set of proposals with little controversy.  That being said, out of the 10 proposals, I suspect proposal 2, 4, and 7 will raise some cackles and go down to defeat.  The other proposals should be adopted 'as is' or with some tweaking.

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