Year of Unification - by Eric Mitchell

Identifying a dominant theme that resonated throughout the year is typically where the writers and editors of the Blood-Horse start when planning for our annual Year in Review issue.

American Pharoah so completely monopolized the landscape in 2015 that our challenge was to be sure many of the other significant events of the year got recognition. One of those issues was the filing of federal legislation that holds the hope of putting the policing and enforcement of medication use in horse racing under one set of rules. It is fair to say that medication is the most divisive issue the industry is now wrestling with, which got us thinking about what we hope will be next year’s dominant theme—unification.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International has been one of the more outspoken critics of this year’s federal legislative efforts, but a recent announcement regarding a series of “town meetings” included some comments that—taken at face value—seem to indicate common ground is attainable.

First, the ARCI wants to focus on efforts to create a “central rule-making process” and achieve “uniform medication policies and consistent implementation.”

No one should be arguing over these objectives, which are clearly everyone’s goal. Already the
ARCI’s Compliance Committee has identified several obstacles to uniformity that exist under the current structure, such as inconsistent regulations for specific medications.

Secondly, the association is encouraging a holistic approach. No one should be arguing over this goal either. A viable solution exists only after all stakeholders have been heard. The association intends to facilitate the discussion next year through a proposed series of town meetings, which will be hosted by regulatory bodies across the country in order to solicit feedback and ideas from racetrack operators, breeders, horsemen, legislators, and fans.

Thirdly, the ARCI has left the door open to “possible federal legislation yet to be drafted.”

Regarding point three is where we hope the ARCI’s own plea to seek common ground will take precedent.

Twenty congressional co-sponsors and a significant segment of the racing industry are supporting H.R. 3084, also known as the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act (see page 29). All legislation is a work in progress that goes through hearings specifically so the individuals and businesses affected can weigh in and debate the pertinent issues. Through thoughtful dialog and compromise, a solution can be achieved.

Rather than threaten a new piece of legislation “yet to be drafted,” the ARCI should bring the information it gathers at its town meetings and make them part of the discussion with the existing legislation.
We encourage the ARCI to take advantage of an offer that it received to hold a national town meeting during the annual Welfare and Safety Summit at Keeneland. June 29 has already been set aside, if necessary, for such a meeting. Then after the feedback has been offered, we encourage the ARCI to join the effort to create one centralized platform for managing medication use and enforcement in horse racing.

“The political divide that currently exists in the racing industry is destructive to the sport,” said ARCI chairman Mark Lamberth. We could not agree more, which is why Blood-Horse has endorsed the THIA. Let’s bridge the divide. Let’s create the mechanism that has been missing, but talked about for decades, that allows for swift and decisive action to be applied nationwide across the rapidly changing landscape that is medication regulation.

Make 2016 the year racing comes together to achieve a genuinely unified solution.

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