BREEDERS/FARM OWNERS & MANAGERS
Craig Bandoroff: farm owner, consignor, Denali Stud
1. We need centralization to organize our fragmented industry where stakeholders (racetracks, owners, and horsemen) are held accountable and are beneficiaries of synergies to improve the economics, regulation, and promotion of racing. We need one central organizing body, not a myriad of individual states regulating the industry.
2. We need a strong owners group that is willing and empowered to take on the issues that confront us and that can force the racetracks to come to the table as our partners in promoting and improving horse racing. Control needs to be taken from “horsemen” and placed with owners who own the product.
3. Our outdated racetracks need to be improved and the facilities upgraded to attract and keep an audience coming back. Too many of our facilities are too substandard to attract and retain customers.
4. Our outdated tote system needs to be improved and centralized. The present system is an accident waiting to happen that puts the integrity of our wagering at risk. We also need to develop simple wagers that appeal to the novice fan to introduce them to our sport.
5. New revenue streams need to be developed outside pari-mutuel wagering. There are numerous opportunities that need to be explored and developed that include social gaming, online wagering, and other leisure games that center around horse racing.
Dr. Warren Center: breeder/owner
1. Oklahoma is doing well now thanks to the supplements we’re getting from the casinos. Sometimes my wife would rather sit at a slot machine than watch her own horse run. She’s adamant that the tracks have something that keeps the attention span of people faster than 25 minutes between races.
2. In order to bring a younger generation to the racetrack, tracks should have track-owned, handheld widgets that let people bet wherever they are at the track. I have seven children between the ages of 21 and 34, and they are so impatient and technology-driven that they are not going to go to the track and stand five-deep in a line to make a bet.
3. Racing has become more of a “world game,” but I don’t understand all the offshore betting sites where little or no money comes to the host track that would translate into purses. There has to be a way for the host track to get more of the offsite money.
4. I’ve watched the NFL, NBA, and MLB become super successful, and I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime, but racing needs a commissioner. We need a national commissioner of racing that has the power to regulate things like medication and to keep equality in racing. The NTRA—bless their hearts—I just don’t think they’re the right body.
5. There are too many flavors of racing today. I think we’ll see more consolidation where the little tracks will be sucked up or go out of business. I don’t see how the “Fairmount Parks” are going to make it.
Mike O’Farrell: farm owner/breeder, Ocala Stud
When you discuss five ways to improve the racing/breeding business, you can list your hopes and dreams, or you can list what you feel can actually be achieved. My list of hopes and dreams:
1. A racing commission with a commissioner with the knowledge, respect, and wherewithal to get the powers that be to buy into the fact that what is good for one is good for all.
2. Strict and uniform medication rules nationwide. This requires one or two testing labs with those in charge having the guts to enforce and make public the infractions that are found.
3. Strict and severe punishment for trainers and veterinarians abusing the rules. Many of those who have abused the rules over the years train or work for the “powers that be” that could and should lead our industry. Nothing happens.
4. Improve and cater to the wagering public both at the track and over the Internet. Sounds easy and should be easy to accomplish, but without the commissioner talked about above, it probably won’t happen.
5. The one extremely important item I think can actually be achieved is a new and improved advance deposit wagering system. We need a leader or organization or both that can organize creating an industry-owned ADW company that is fair and equitable to all parties involved. If the Internet can and has overthrown countries, it should be easy enough to use it to get control of the fastest-growing wagering segment within our industry. It must benefit the owners and breeders as well as the tracks. At the present time it only benefits the tracks, which would rather have you place your wagers from home than at the track, and that is wrong.
Tom Goncharoff: farm manager, Crystal Springs Farm
1. Regarding medication violations: I never thought I’d say this, but I think the time has come to penalize the horse too. Even when a trainer gets a stiff suspension, rare as that is, they just train them on the phone with an assistant. The trainer loses nothing, and the owners flock to the bad guys. So, suspend the horse, thereby dinging the owner, thereby dinging the trainer. Perhaps that would have the desired effect, and there absolutely needs to be a national standard for medication.
2. From my 27-year-old daughter who also makes her living in the Thoroughbred biz—a unified effort to reach young people via social networks, as opposed to the piecemeal efforts that currently exist. She added, “quit asking us what to do and do something!” Out of the mouths of babes…
3. Simplify the betting options for the uninitiated. Ever try to explain them to a new fan? Watch their eyes glaze over.
4. Safety, safety, safety—for horse and jockey.
5. Less is more, I believe. Year-round racing, especially with the smaller foal crops, makes for short fields, dwindling attendance, and dwindling handle.
6. And finally, coming up with a Zenyatta every couple of years would be helpful.
John Sikura: farm owner, breeder, Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms
1. One horse racing channel that features racing and horse-related themes in ‘off hours.’ No preemption of races, late results, or the requirement of three dishes to watch the races. What we have today is totally confusing and not consumer- or bettor-friendly.
2. A strong supplement of purses in strategic races to encourage the best horses to compete against each other. No sport is compelling without the best competitors on the field at the same time.
3. Strong marketing campaign to combat the preconceived ideas of our sport. The vast majority of people think racing is fixed, horses are drugged, and all are slaughtered after their racing careers.
4. Uniform medication rules and severe penalties for violators.
5. Industry-owned ADW that supports purses and significant funding for horse adoption.
6. Restore the majesty of going to the races. Our reliance on simulcasting has made attending the races seem like going to a funeral. We need to incentivize bettors and fans to attend live racing with a great experience and value for their dollar. Not $6 beers and nowhere to sit.
Rob Whiteley: breeder, Liberation Farm
1. Identify “friendly” federal legislators and work with them to craft careful legislation to establish a central administrative office for Thoroughbred racing with authority to formulate uniform rules and regulations across all states and with full power to enforce compliance, similar to the office of the commissioner of the National Football League or Major League Baseball.
2. Upon establishment of a centralized authority, create a uniform drug policy in line with regulations that are in place in major international jurisdictions and establish strict but standardized and fair drug-testing policies and procedures with heavy penalties for infractions.
3. Establish a centralized marketing department within the national governing office to develop and implement systematic and tightly coordinated promotional initiatives across all tracks and regions. This would include establishment of a national stakes program to minimize conflicts among important races and increase competition among top horses, thereby maximizing fan interest, anticipation, and excitement.
4. Our racing model is upside down in many ways. As part of an overall plan to develop an effective business model, have very wealthy horse owners, individually or together, purchase or build prominent tracks in strategic locations as part of a consortium designed to create a “major league” circuit that can work together to enhance and protect the long-term interests of the sport. Track ownership should be in the hands of people who care about the health of the overall industry. Public companies, unrestrained individuals who are driven by self-interest, and state agencies do not fit this requirement. Most other major sports, unlike horse racing, thrive because owners are in control of the product and the revenue, and because they are forced by a centralized authority to work together.
5. Seek the assistance of “friendly” federal legislators to rewrite sections of the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. If we have industry agreement on anything, we have a shared perception that our business model for racing is badly broken. Approximately 90% of wagering revenue is controlled by offtrack bet-takers to the detriment of live racing interests and purses. As revenue is increasingly siphoned away from host tracks, it becomes more difficult for tracks to lower takeout in a way that boosts our ability to compete for the gambling dollar against better organized adversaries outside of our industry. This steady and withering drain of revenue away from host tracks, and its effect on purses, also causes profound negative consequences for owners and breeders and all vendors and service workers in the production chain.
Rollin Baugh: bloodstock agent
1. National cooperation and coordination of racing product. This will become increasingly more important as the horse population declines.
2. Significant national reciprocal suspension for medication violations.
3. Creation of more festival-type racing throughout the country.
4. Full utilization of television outlets to maximize exposure.
5. Self-imposed limits on stallion book size.
Mark Toothaker: bloodstock agent, Legacy Bloodstock
1. Do a better job of selling The Dream to new folks. We have a great sport, but we don’t do enough promoting of it.
2. Have a rep at each track to take people with an interest in getting involved around to meet trainers, watch morning training, and visit the paddock and winner’s circle on race day.
3. Learn from the casinos—know who your regulars are and take care of them. Free admission, parking, food, etc.
4. Promote our superstars and big race days. Nothing sells our sport better than a full house full of energy.
5. Bigger purses to give owners a shot at making money. We may have to cut a few days.
Gayle Van Leer: bloodstock agent
1. Horsemen need to stop fighting with each other and work together in a united front to confront important issues, such as license-fee structure with ADW companies. So much has been given away in the early years of ADW contracts, horsemen need to gain back some ground as it is just a matter of time before nearly all wagering goes online and international. Without a fair share of the pool for those putting on the show, it will be very tough for horsemen to stay in the business at all.
2. Most of the racing industry is dramatically behind in keeping up with the latest tech trends, which is where new fans and owners are going to come from. Smart phones and tablet devices are exploding in popularity. The G4 network is just kicking in and will up speeds of mobile access substantially, which opens up more and more opportunities. Racing needs to embrace new media with open arms and at a much faster pace.
3. Medication usage needs to be reduced substantially more than the strides already made to bring the U.S. in line with other racing countries. It is tough to get fans and new owners interested in this business if they think our horses are “drugged.” Internationally there is a perception that the quality of our racehorses is below world levels due to legal drug-enhanced performances. Owners are leaving the business due to the high overhead of keeping a horse in training. A big portion of that is excessive vet bills. Owners need to scrutinize their vet bills and ask questions about why their horse needs this medication, what it does or purports to do, and whether it is really necessary.
4. More educational seminars about becoming an owner and what you need to know as an owner. Here in California we have a very good series on the calendar every year, all free and covering multiple topics. Even if the attendees remain only fans, they will better understand the “behind the scenes” and be less inclined to think everything is fixed and a bettor has little chance. Every existing owner/trainer should make time to volunteer as a guest speaker at such a seminar for the betterment of the industry.
5. Marketing! We need to be more creative with our marketing to make horse racing “cool” and appealing to the younger crowd. We have been fortunate to have some great exposure recently with “Seabiscuit,” “Secretariat,” “Jockeys,” “First Saturday In May,” and horse owner David Milch’s “Luck,” as well as stories like
Zenyatta. The general public is starstruck, loves glamour, loves animals, and laps up celebrity news. We have all that. Let’s get the message out there!
JOCKEYS & AGENTS
Ron Anderson: jockey agent
1. The horse racing industry from coast to coast needs to be managed like all other pro sports, with a commissioner and an executive board. The board would be responsible for regulating, medication, drug testing, purse uniformity, scheduling of stake races, publicity, and any other such issues.
2. To stay competitive with all other gambling venues, the racetracks need to waive all parking and entrance fees.
3. Individual racetrack management teams should put forth more effort in creating genuine camaraderie between themselves and the owners, trainers, agents, jockeys, reporters, and all those closely related to the industry.
4. Young, innovative thoughts (using chat rooms, grad students, surveys, marketing groups) to come up with new ways to entice the interest of the public back into horse racing.
Chris McCarron: Hall of Fame jockey, former racetrack executive
1. Promote the stars to whom people can relate: owners, trainers, and jockeys. Look what the Mosses, John Shirreffs, and Mike Smith did to capture and maintain the attention on Zenyatta. Sure, she did all the running, but her handlers were the ones people connected with. Horses don’t last long enough and can’t interact with fans, but the connections certainly can. There are countless owners, trainers, and jockeys who can effectively promote this great game if only given the opportunity and encouragement to do so.
2. More tracks should provide in-depth backstretch and “behind the scenes” tours like the one Santa Anita does. But it should be led by, or at least involve, one or two of the aforementioned participants. When I led the Seabiscuit tours at Santa Anita, people went wild over them. We had more than 9,000 people come take the tour over a six-month period. I can’t begin to tell you how much mail I received from fans expressing their excitement and interest.
3. Reduce the number of racing days. We ask our fans to participate all year long. It very often becomes stale and mundane. Concentrate the better races into fewer days and put on much higher-quality race cards. I know it’s a lot easier said than done, but it should be given serious consideration. The fans always show up for the big days.
Richard Migliore: former jockey, TV commentator
1. I believe we need a national racing commission that would create and enforce uniform rules pertaining to every facet of racing from riding infractions to medication violations. There is nothing more important than our reputation and our credibility.
2. Implement programs to educate racing fans on all aspects of the game, especially on the many varied wagering options. No one wants to feel intimidated or worse yet, taken.
3. Promote the sport as just that, a sport. We have amazing athletes equine and human that should be admired and respected. Racing is the greatest game played outdoors!
4. Create more and better programs to teach people how to work with horses properly. From hotwalkers and grooms to trainers and jockeys, horsemanship is becoming a lost art. It is our responsibility to care for our horses properly.
5. Less may be more. We have so much racing that it seems to get taken for granted. The race meetings that do really well such as Saratoga and Del Mar are shorter meets packed with quality races fueled by fans that have waited all year for the show to come back to town. It is important that racing is an event, not just an everyday occurrence.
Gary Stevens: Hall of Fame jockey, TV commentator
1. National rules for medication levels instead of state-by-state. Also establishment of a national license.
2. Immediate public transparency on medication positives.
3. If a horse tests positive for a Class 3 or higher medication, the trainer loses stalls and the right to run horses until after a hearing.
4. Trainers limited to 40 stalls at any live race meeting.
5. Zero tolerance on any and all medications would save our sport and we wouldn’t have to worry about answers 1, 2, and 3.
Cary Fotias: gambler
1. Lower the takeout or die. Instead of operating like a public utility, let market forces decide optimal takeout rates. Lower takeout is a universal rebate and provides more “entertainment value” for new players. Competition for the gambling dollar is keen, and racing will never prosper at current takeout levels.
2. Increase liquidity in the pools. The object of the game is to make money, and you can only do that, in the long run, by betting on horses going off at a bigger price than they should be. However, due to small pools, the late odds often fluctuate dramatically. This makes the game difficult to play for “value players” such as myself, as you don’t have much confidence in the final price you’ll get at most tracks.
3. Less is more. There is way too much racing, resulting in many small, noncompetitive fields. Less racing will lead to bigger fields, better wagering opportunities, and increased liquidity.
4. Centralize authority. With 30-some racing jurisdictions and their concomitant bureaucratic and political loyalties, meaningful change that benefits the industry as a whole will be very difficult. Only by cooperating on a national scale will the game have a chance to grow. As an example, the fact that players have to have multiple accounts to bet all the tracks they want is preposterous. All phone and Internet wagering should be consolidated into a national, one-stop shopping network and all tracks should offer live video streaming on the Internet.
5. It’s about the gambling. Counting cards at blackjack, playing poker for a living, betting on sports, and trading foreign currencies on Wall Street are a few of the things I’ve gambled on in my life. But only betting on horses has managed to keep me intrigued on a daily basis. In my opinion, it is not only the greatest of all gambling games, but also a game with infinite variety and a colorful cast of characters. Yeah, it’s fun to watch the horses run, even majestic at times. But without the chance to validate my opinion at the windows, my interest would wane considerably. You’ve got the best gambling game on the planet, and you don’t even know how to promote it. Embrace new technology and give the younger crowd what they want—a game with competitive pricing that allows them to play and watch over any device on a streamlined national network with free past performances.
Jeff Platt and Andy Asaro: gamblers, Horseplayers Association of North America
1. Takeout. Blended takeout of 20+ percent is too high, causing players to bet significantly less than they otherwise would. Our horseplayer members tell us they want us working to get takeout reduced.
2. Pool integrity. Odds that change after the bell are no longer acceptable. Horseplayers are consumers. Today consumers have come to expect price quotes that are both accurate and delivered in real time. Think NYSE, NASDAQ, and Amazon, etc. It’s long past time for the industry to obtain a modern, secure tote system fast enough to deliver odds and payoffs in real time.
3. Drug integrity. Slap-on-the-wrist penalties for trainers caught cheating through the use of drugs are simply not acceptable. Horseplayers are consumers and have the expectation that the gambling games (casino slots, poker, state lotteries, etc.) racing competes with are regulated in such a way that there is very little question about the integrity of the games themselves. Not so with racing. Lenient penalties send completely the wrong message to current (and potential) racing customers everywhere.
4. Maximizing revenues for tracks and purses. Over the past 20 years, racing has paid out several hundred thousand dollars to consulting firms for economic studies. The economic literature, as well as real world case history (Tampa Bay Downs’ strategy over the past nine years of consistently reducing takeout resulting in the doubling of average daily handle and increasing purses by 60% is one example) clearly indicates takeout has an optimal pricing point—the point that produces maximum revenue for tracks and purses. The economic literature andreal-world case history also indicate that current blended takeout levels of 20+ percent are well above the optimal pricing point.
5. Larger players would be OK with eliminating rebates, IF takeout were lowered across the board.
Paula M. Weglarz: fan, insurance agent
1. Political activism. There is racing legislation all over, and the racing industry needs to educate fans, owners, trainers, and breeders on why this benefits them. We need to form a more powerful force among all of those communities. Fans need to get involved in calling their legislators when racing- and breeding-related legislation is introduced. So many people are disconnected from the political process and don’t know about the legislation going through their state houses.
2. Shorten racing weeks or racing meets. I think we are going to come to a point where we have to consolidate further. Monmouth did a really good job of shortening its race meet and making it more quality-oriented and filling races. It’s difficult for fans and handicappers to follow so much racing all over the place all the time. It’s an oversaturated market right now. Short fields mean less wagering, and less wagering means less money at the track for purses. It puts racing in jeopardy.
3. A zero-tolerance drug policy or a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy. Integrity and a level playing field are going to help clear up some of the general public’s issues when it comes to thinking racing is deceitful and fixed. There are several trainers floating around at big and small tracks who have been suspended and they’re back in the game, suspended again, and back in the game. The racing industry is going to have to come up with a cut-off point when people who have multiple drug violations are thrown out of the game because allowing them to continue in the sport destroys the integrity of racing.
4. More compassionate and stricter stances on horse slaughter and Thoroughbred retirement by tracks, farms, owners, and breeders. The one thing about racing that turns people off the most is not only the injuries, but knowing that horses are disposable. There needs to be something put in place, maybe by The Jockey Club, to make owners, trainers, and breeders responsible for what happens to the horses in their care and to show fans that this is not a sport where we dispose of our animals inhumanely.
5. More accessibility to information for fans and handicappers. The sport is difficult to follow for someone who doesn’t love it greatly. Even for the people who love it greatly, we pay and pay and pay for racing past performances. There is so much information that is accessible in other countries that is “pay for” information here. I don’t know how to find the happy balance, but there has to be a way, maybe a national website, to educate the general public in lay terms so that they can understand racing a little more while promoting the sport by releasing more free information.
Maggi Moss: owner, attorney
1. A national leader of our industry, much like with the NFL or NBA, who promotes our sport with new ideas and creates a uniformity with known parameters and rules. Someone that cleans house and directs us to a future where we have a better public perception.
2. A national drug-testing policy that is realistic, and takes us forward with known rules and practicality, equally considering the public perception and the welfare of the horses. Zero tolerance is unworkable, simply due to contamination and the world we now live in. One should be able to go state to state with the same regulations. A national uniformity that brings back the public trust but is realistic as to focusing only on the drug levels and the drugs that hurt horses.
3. There are too many tracks, and too many conditioned claiming races. Go back to wide open claiming, allowance, maiden races, and stakes. So many types of conditioned races have saturated the market and only lead to an inferior product to market.
4. A strategic, uniform plan to showcase horse racing again and win the public’s trust to bring back the fans. We’ve had so much bad publicity and a very real public perception concerning drugs that we are all cheaters or not playing by the rules. We need to clean up that perception to regain the trust of the public and bettors. We need to make racing entertaining again, with less time between races, less racing, fuller fields, and the public relations drive to bring people back to the track again.
5. With the economy, tracks that have slots cannot have racing as the “necessary evil” to enable them to have alternative gaming. Racing has to find a way to stand on its own without gambling/slot money. The tracks that have slot-driven purses are looking for a way to promote the slots, not racing. The future is bleak unless we all find a way to have racing stand on its own again.
Jack Wolf: owner, Starlight Stables
1. Uniformity in all aspects.
2. An improved tote system.
3. More money spent on improving backside for humans and horses.
4. Effective marketing plan to educate and attract new owners.
5. Require owners to take responsibility for taking care of their retired racehorses.
Michael Matz: trainer
1. Uniformity with racetrack rulings. The stewards’ decisions on infractions vary from track to track.
2. Uniformity with licensing. Where is that national license for owners, trainers, etc.!!??
3. Uniformity with medication.
4. Uniformity with regard to racetrack procedures.
5. One governing body to oversee all of the above. Comprised perhaps of representatives from the states with racetracks, racetrack owners, horse owners, trainers, and veterinarians.
Graham Motion: trainer
1. The most glaring issue for me is the need for a national governing body overseeing racing. This would need to include a) a national medication policy; b) governing body to review stewards/commission decisions; and c) national licensing for owners and trainers.
2. Less racing. I believe we are offering a watered-down product.
3. Like it or not, the new Gulfstream entertainment center with racing, slots, shops, and restaurants is probably the way of the future.
4. Digital passports with microchip identification for the horses. Paper version should be a thing of the past.
5. National database to track horses from birth to death (to track movement and show accountability).
John Shirreffs: trainer
1. Racetrack ownership should include committed racehorse owners. We need people who love the sport to manage it. Corporations have a way of losing the personal side of relationships.
2. Because the horse is no longer an everyday part of regular society, the public and the fans need to be more exposed to the unique and individual beauty of the Thoroughbred. The Thoroughbred complements our very being. It is something we all share when we pass through the racetrack gate from coast to coast.
3. Breeders must return to the idea of improving the breed through their matings. Market breeding should be secondary. The pride of breeding a good horse must be the bedrock mindset. Greed will crumble.
4. Development of apps (software) to help fans handicap—make it interactive, exciting, at least interesting. Take touting into this century. How many people play slots because they are intimidated by Blackjack? We can improve with the Internet.
5. Learn to share! The Internet, the signal, the money! Make change a positive for all in the industry, giving all markets an opportunity for growth. “Friends helping friends.”
Michael Blowen: founder, Old Friends retirement facility
1. Restore the unparalleled fun in racing these amazing athletes. It’s not just Mike Repole and Jerry and Ann Moss who express the great pleasures of the sport. Recently my friend Nick Newman and his brother and trainer, Tim Wilson, ran a first-time starter in a maiden claimer at Turfway Park. They had about 20 friends and family in attendance. She ran fifth in a six-horse field, but everyone was smiling.
2. Promote better treatment for the athletes. We attract about 20,000 visitors per year at Old Friends and many of the same faces would show up at the sales, bringing new blood and money with them, if they thought the Thoroughbreds were treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
3. Support the equine athletes. Our 107 retirees all left the racetrack and breeding sheds without any Social Security or 401(k) plans. They earned more than $70 million on the track and generated more than $500 million at stud. At the end of their careers, they are left to a handful of owners and thousands of fans to support their so-called golden years.
4. Enforce the rules. As a horseplayer, it’s hard enough to pick winners without trying to guess which owners and trainers are cheating. Kick the cheaters off the track. If handicappers and racing fans thought they were getting a better shake, you’d be amazed how much the handle would rise. Zero tolerance for drug abusers and adoption of the anti-slaughter provisions adopted by Suffolk Downs.
5. Promote the stars. The horses and the jockeys should be front and center. So many participants in the sport think they’re doing the media a favor by granting interviews. They should be begging for coverage. All of these horses and jockeys have amazing stories. Tell them.
Dustin Dix: director of racing, Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino
1. Oats, hay, and water. Ban all race-day medications. This would do a lot to restore credibility for racing fans throughout the country and would put horsemen on a level playing field.
2. National governing body. Uniformity of racing rules and one governing body is something that would benefit the industry. In football a holding call is 10 yards in Dallas or Detroit. Why should certain violations vary from state to state?
3. Hard look at race days. There must be a happy medium of race days between horsemen and track management. Horse racing must be run on supply and demand.
4. Wagering format and takeout uniformity. Tracks should offer the same minimums for their bets nationwide and the same takeouts. This would simplify horse racing and make it easier for the wagering public.
5. Reward existing fans and attract new ones. Tracks seem to do one or the other but not both. Racing fans are forgotten, and if we don’t keep the ones we have and attract new ones, then horse racing will continue to decline.
Nick Eaves: President & CEO Woodbine Entertainment Group
1. A single, North America-wide ADW service, accompanying TV channel, rewards program and simulcast sales and management system. Owned and managed by the industry, for the benefit of the industry.
2. Significant deregulation. The industry needs the structural means to be able to respond to market forces in a rapidly changing marketplace.
3. Medication control that protects the horse from the humans and has the trust of horse people and the betting public.
4. A weekly lottery bet tied to North America’s best racing, shown on network television.
5. A strategy that showcases racing’s superstars—the engaging personalities, the compelling stories, the champion horses. Zenyatta!
Ben Huffman: racing secretary
1. We need to consider seriously lowering or capping stakes purses for 2- and 3-year-old races and increase stakes purses for older horses. Several racing secretaries around the country have been kicking this idea around for a few years but collectively need to convince our management teams to support the idea. It must be a national effort for it to work, not just a few tracks. Greater stakes money for older horses is the only incentive for owners to keep runners in training longer.
2. Our current and future owners need to be educated more in the area of choosing trainers. The message here should be it is OK to send horses to trainers with less than 50 horses in their care. This is not a knock on the large outfits. We have fewer trainers with the majority of horses today than 10 years ago. It is not unusual for large outfits to have multiple horses for the same type of race daily.
3. The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium must continue to strive toward establishing uniform medication rules nationally. This will take a lot of pressure off trainers. The different regulations in each state make it difficult for trainers and fans to understand and follow.
4. It is important for our industry to do a better job of educating people about the various retirement organizations that exist for our retired horses. Every racetrack, owner, trainer, and racing official in this country needs to take a close look at donating money and time to promote awareness about these facilities. The horses contribute to our enjoyment and employment, and ensuring a safe and dignified retirement for as many horses as possible is the least we can do as an industry.
5. A major problem we face is the continuing decline in the number of starts per horse per year. In 2009 that number was down to an all-time low of 6.2 starts per year. Because win percentages are published and scrutinized by owners, some trainers may be afraid to race certain horses unless they are first- or second-betting choice. Growing up, I heard hundreds of times that one race is worth several workouts. In short, I think some owners and trainers should not pass races they are eligible for because the distance or claiming price may not be perfect as long as the horse is sound and healthy.
Andre Regard: attorney
1. Elimination of the 38 state racing commissions and establishing one central national governing body to regulate and market the sport, including television and simulcast rights.
2. Reduction in the number of tracks and at the same time revising the simulcast compensation model, resulting in a tiered track system with the best tracks having the highest purses and best racing.
3. Allow corporate sponsorships of silks, jockeys, ownership stables, and trainers so that the public has something to follow. This model is similar to college basketball where the players (horses) may change every year, but certain trainers, jockeys, and ownership groups do well year after year. This does not mean the horses are not the focus but, to be honest, we never get more than two years out of the good ones. The marketing model would include shared revenue to purses and will be centrally cleared, like the NFL or College Licensing Corporation. The sponsorships should be similar to golf, not NASCAR.
4. Greater transparency at the sales with better disclosures and current statistics provided on the relationship of veterinary issues and injuries.
5. Greater push to international betting pools.
Martin Panza: vice president of racing, Hollywood Park
1. I strongly believe the use of race-day medication has had an adverse effect on our industry. It attacks the integrity of the business on so many levels. From the gambling aspect, it is no longer just about reading the past performance lines on a horse. From the training side, it has become almost like an arms race: “Well, if everybody else is using it, then I have to as well.” From the ownership side, there are more bills resulting in higher expenses. From the breeding side, breeding a drug user to a drug user by a drug user has certainly contributed to the weakening of the breed, resulting in far fewer starts (earning opportunities) per year.
2. Define what “no race-day medication” means and institute it for all graded stakes races. This constitutes most of our breeding stock from the male side of the horse population and many of the top mares from the female side. Let the soundest horses win these races on their natural ability; not the horse who is getting the best drugs from the best vets. Run fewer graded stakes—as fewer races are run and the horse population declines, so too should the number of graded stakes.
3. Big event days. With the exception of the Triple Crown events and the Breeders’ Cup, there are no national race days of prominence. There are several days of regional importance, but racing needs to find away a way to expand upon these races in a more prominent fashion. The American Racing Championship Series was an attempt at this several years ago. I am not sure that format would work under today’s racing environment, but something along those lines needs to be developed.
4. Purse distribution. Racinos have changed the landscape of the American racing scene. I am not sure of the logic in $5,000 claiming races being run for $30,000 purses. This creates an arms race again, where tracks have to try to match theses purses, pulling monies from the higher-quality races. We know larger fields create higher handle, but I doubt the handle in these races justifies the purses paid. We should be rewarding horses for running in higher-level races, not rewarding mediocrity.
5. Federal tax incentives. There should be greater tax incentives on the federal level for people who breed and race horses in this country. This is a very labor-intensive industry. Computers and machines don’t feed, train, or care for our animals; people do. Racing in Japan is about job creation. The Chinese government is now looking toward the creation of a racing industry with the primary purpose of job creation. There is little question that we need more owners, and tax incentives could drive more people toward the industry, thus creating more jobs.
Rick Arthur: veterinarian
1. Establish national uniform medication regulations. The less permissive International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) medication regulations modified for U.S. racing would be a reasonable starting point.
2. Require racing laboratories be accredited to RMTC/Jockey Club Drug Testing Initiative standards. Drug testing should become centralized in three to five high-quality, cost-efficient laboratories.
3. Require meaningful stable-area security as a condition for participation in interstate wagering—video surveillance, detention barns, stable-area security personnel, whatever works best at each track with the security program verified by independent third-party oversight.
4. Get serious about reducing equine injuries and fatalities. Fund and staff a task force whose sole responsibility is to investigate why equine fatality rates have increased, racing careers have shortened, and what racing must do to correct the problem.
5. Put the fun back into horse racing. Throw racing’s current business and regulatory models in the trash can and start over again.
Mark Cheney: veterinarian
1. Improve exposure by having more stories in major newspapers in North America about stake races. It would benefit racing if the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader, for example, would devote more space to entries and results. Additionally, racetracks could stimulate interest in racing by running multiple daily ads on local radio stations.
2. Follow the examples of casinos and state lotteries by using billboards that would flash the dollar amounts to be won by hitting the Pick Six or other innovative and lucrative bets.
3. People put millions daily into slots by betting only a nickel or a quarter. Promote and advertise the potential payoffs of small bets such as the 10-cent superfecta, which is a big hit with novice bettors. Appeal to big gamblers by reducing the takeout and offering rebates.
4. Simplify racing programs to make them easier for novice bettors to understand and reduce the price to $1 or $2. Make programs readily available in convenience stores. Very few novice bettors understand the data in the Daily Racing Form and don’t want to pay $7 for a copy.
5. Racing should strive to put on a higher-quality product, especially at the important meets such as Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, and Saratoga. Too many claiming races on a card detract from the overall product.
Drs. Charles Kidder and Nancy Cole: veterinarians, breeders
1. We would like to see increased purses. “If you build it, they will come.”
2. Uniform meds is always on top of the list.
3. Changing the upside-down ADW model has to be paramount.
4. Our technology, i.e., tote, is so outdated, we wonder if it can be saved.
5. Why can’t registration papers be electronic, similar to those of the Standardbred industry? b