Winning Connection article
-by John C. Harris
Ronald Reagan said, "There is no end to the good things people can get done if no one cares who gets the credit". With all the problems and challenges facing racing we all need to work together to get things done that can benefit all sectors of the business and sport. In racing's instance, I don't think the problem is so much in fighting over who gets the credit for something, but rather in just getting fair minded people together to work jointly on issues. We are fortunate to have 3 good organizations, all well funded and well staffed with competent boards: the CTT representing trainers, the TOC representing owners, and the CTBA representing breeders. In addition, the tracks have a vast stake in the game, as does the state itself. These groups have a responsibility to represent their constituencies to solve problems as they come along. Everyone in the business needs to be part of the solution and willing to work with together to make things better.
Here are a few of the challenges I think face us. Not everyone will agree with me on how I personally perceive the issues, but I am hoping to start some dialogue.
1. Decline of interest in racing as noted in stagnant on and off track attendance and handle numbers. Even though prices for horses at the sales have gone up (probably due to the good economy, and mainly just for the top end horses), and purses have gone up (due to license fee relief) we aren't showing any real growth. Do we have a defined strategy in place to turn this ship around?
2. Need to expand our market using technology and get account wagering legalized in California. Once that happens we need to see which systems work the best and how we best publicize this new opportunity.
3. The need for a good national law that clarifies that citizens do have a right to bet interstate on horse racing via phones or the Internet. There are some measures in Congress on this right now. I support not opening the Internet to all types of gambling, but feel that wagering on horse races is a special situation that benefits a great many people, and it should be allowed. Unfortunately, President Clinton's Justice Department does not want to see this happen. Somehow the horse industry needs to make ourselves heard louder in Washington. The American Horse Council and the NTRA have done a good job for us, but they need more support.
4. Concern that powerful labor unions will push the legislation of some type of forced unionization of the backstretch that will be damaging to grooms, trainers, owners, and the tracks. Employees clearly should have the right to organize, but it must be on an individual employer (trainer) basis. The current legislation will create many undue hardships if it were to become law. We do need to insure that living conditions are acceptable and wage and hour laws are being complied with, but a union should not be forced upon the workforce.
5. All track safety measures need to be constantly evaluated. I have always thought that there should be a way to quantify the characteristics of a racetrack surface. With all the technology available today, why can't we know more than we do about the relative softness/hardness, cushion, looseness, uniformity and moisture percentage of a given track on a given day. Just explaining how deep the track was worked and how much water went on it, doesn't tell us enough. Also in this area, we need to look closely at the toe grab study that will be coming out of UC Davis soon and see how we can use it and other studies to improve soundness of our horses.
6. Threshold levels for medications. The criteria for a bad test should be that there is at least some likelihood that it enhanced the performance of the horse. Current zero tolerance standards don't really work. There are many respiratory drugs that some horses may need to train on in the rather bad air quality atmosphere of the track. If there is no performance enhancing aspect, I think that there needs to be threshold levels of testing.
These are just a few thoughts. There are plenty more out there. Let's just get all interests motivated to work together to move racing forward. If you have ideas, email me at email@example.com. Or better yet, let us all hear what you think by going on a new feature that CTBA has started, the Industry Forum. You can access it via www.ctba.com.
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