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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Let the Race to be First Begin!

Now that Racing Under Saddle has been approved, let the race for the first state to offer parimutuel wagering begin.  Make no mistake, the USTA approving rules for RUS gives legitimacy to the sport.  Proponents of RUS can now go to their state racing commissions with a set of model rules for their commissions to approve.

The biggest obstacle proponents may run into is from thoroughbred interests who may argue RUS should be considered the domain of the runners.  This is why the term jockey should not be used when referring to the riders.  An argument against the runner's claim on racing under saddle is simple.  In thoroughbred racing, the goal of a jockey is to get the horse to go full out and have their horses run full out at a gallop, the horses natural gait, while a standardbred rider's purposes is to ride the  horse and hold them together at a trot.  

In some states, legislation defines what harness racing is; depending on how it is written it may be necessary to modify the existing statute to allow for RUS racing.  This change may eliminate any claim the thoroughbred industry may have on RUS.

Why the need for the rush to be first?  Make no mistake, while the rules were approved by the USTA, there are doubters of RUS.  Some of it comes from never seeing it before, some the hesitation from dinosaurs refusing to consider anything new to change the product presented..   The only way to convince these doubters is for them to see parimutuel wagering on RUS so they see how successful it can be.  Let's face it, tracks citing insurance issues will have no problem finding the funding for insurance premiums if they see RUS being accepted at the wagering windows.

One concern I have regarding RUS, is the physical ability of riders to participate in races.  Exhibition races on the 'A' circuit have been conducted professionally with horses well ridden.  However, in some races, there were riders unprepared physically who raced and it showed.  For the safety of all participants, I hope the requirement to show physical ability is taken seriously.  In Europe, riders are required to pass a physical test showing the candidate has the strength in order to participate in RUS events.  I hope a similar test is required in North America before riding license are issued; perhaps not this year, but most certainly by the time wagering is allowed.  Not only will it make for better racing, it will provide safety for all involved.

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