As 2008 drifts off into the sunset, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read and/or commented on Breeders' Cup Chat. We had some lively debates, and even though 2008 wasn't the best of years for horse racing, I think we did a pretty good job of keeping it fun. I appreciated everyone's input, even when we disagreed. Thanks for making this blog so interesting and successful.
This will be my final Breeders' Cup Chat post until next summer, as the blog will switch over to Triple Crown Talk beginning next week. I look forward to chatting with everyone about the next crop of 3-year-old superstars. We already know who some of the early Derby favorites are, but let's all keep an eye out for the late-bloomers. Remember, Big Brown didn't burst onto the scene until March.
For my final post of the year, I'd like to offer a simple New Year's wishlist. Not that any of these three things will happen, but in a perfect world, we would see changes in 2009. Feel free to post your own wishlist.
See everyone on Triple Crown Talk!
3. Stricter penalties for medication violations - Enough is enough. A big reason for the decline in the popularity of horse racing is that people have little or no confidence in the integrity of the sport. When the trainers of the world's most popular horses continually get popped for drug violations - and keep getting a slap on the wrist - it sends a clear message: The public has no reason to trust horse racing. And if that continues, the sport will keep declining.
Let's finally put in place tough drug policies, much like other nations have had for years: First violation - one year suspension; second violation - five years; third violation - lifetime ban. That would solve the lying and cheating real quick. More realistically, I hope at the very least a rule is put into place that says a trainer cannot transfer horses to his/her assistant during the time they are serving their suspension. It's a laughable way of avoiding the penalty. Under my rules, if you are serving a suspension, either the horse is permanently transferred to another barn or they are not allowed to run during the infraction period. It's that simple.
Steroids nearly ruined baseball. Illegal drugs (not just steroids) will ruin horse racing if stricter penalties are not enforced.
2. Address the problem of unwanted horses - I wrote about this in an earlier post, but if this epidemic is not tackled the problem will keep getting worse, and thousands of horses will continue to suffer.
The slaughter issue in this country is a mess right now and likely will not be solved at a Congressional level any time soon. The Thoroughbred industry is not solely responsible for the unwanted horse issue (see the Quarter Horse industry), but one thing we can do is make owners and breeders more accountable. A system must be put in place to make owners and breeders financially responsible for their horses.
I don't claim to have all the answers, but it makes sense that if a person takes on the responsibility of breeding or owning a horse, they should be held responsible for its welfare, both during and after racing - especially since it is those very animals that are putting bread on the table. Something needs to be done. Now. There aren't nearly enough rescue facilities to solve the problem.
3. Name a commissioner - Neither No. 1 or No. 2 on the list above, or anything else for that matter, can get accomplished without putting a person or group in charge of horse racing. I know it's easier said than done, but we need a governing body to enforce rules. Otherwise, the cheating, unwanted horse issue, and other current problems will get worse. The Safety and Integrity Alliance developed in October was a good first step, but it was only a band-aid. Tough rules need to be put into place, and without a commissioner they won't get done. It's time for someone to step forward. The "league" must have control over the sport, not the states.