Returning Worker Exception Act Aims for H-2B Relief

By Dan Ross

New federal legislation has been introduced that, if passed, could prove a fillip for trainers struggling to find and hold on to immigrant grooms, hotwalkers and exercise riders in a labor market already squeezed thin.

The H-2B Returning Worker Exception Act of 2021, introduced Tuesday, is designed to “develop a long-term solution to permanently address” the annual H-2B visa cap.

According to the bill as currently written, it amends the definition of “returning worker” to include anyone who has entered the U.S. on an H-2B visa in any one of the three previous years.

 

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Louisiana-bred Picks Up Pieces to Stay Unbeaten in Jersey Girl

GI Belmont S.-winning conditioner Brad Cox grabbed one more stakes win for the road Sunday as unbeaten Australasia rallied past rivals to earn a first black-type victory out of Louisiana-bred company. An 8 1/4-length MSW winner at Fair Grounds last November, the dark bay reeled off a pair of dominant stakes scores at Delta Downs before annexing the two-turn Crescent City Oaks back in NOLA Mar. 20. She picked up another big check when shortening up for a GI Kentucky Oaks day allowance at Churchill Apr. 30, but was facing four talented foes who each owned a recent figure edge over her.

Australasia caboosed the field early after a brief delay when favorite Miss Brazil broke through the gate. Bella Sofia clicked off splits of :22.55 and :45.68 and the chalk challenged that one in upper stretch as Australasia still had work to do out wide. It still looked like it’d be one of those two to midstretch, but Australasia soon caught the eye and came flying with a well-timed ride to score by a widening margin.

 

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Board and Standing Committee of HISA Announced

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s nominating committee announced its board of directors and standing committees. The process was led by Nancy Cox, University of Kentucky vice president for land-grant engagement and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Leonard Coleman, former president of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs.

The nine-person board includes five members from outside of the Thoroughbred industry and four industry representatives. The two chairs of the Authority’s standing committees serve on the board of directors, and the board is expected to select the board chair at its first meeting. The board of directors includes:

  • Steve Beshear, Kentucky (independent director)
  • Leonard Coleman, Florida (independent director)
  • Ellen McClain, New York (independent director)
  • Charles Scheeler, Maryland (independent director)
  • Adolpho Birch, chair of the Anti-Doping and Medication Control standing committee, Tennessee (independent director)
  • Joseph De Francis, Maryland (industry director)
  • Susan Stover, chair of the Racetrack Safety standing committee, California (industry director)
  • Bill Thomason, Kentucky (industry director)
  • DG Van Clief, Virginia (industry director)

The members of the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Standing Committee are:

  • Adolpho Birch, chair (Tennessee, independent director)
  • Jeff Novitzky, Nevada (independent member)
  • Kathleen Stroia, Florida (independent member)
  • Jerry Yon, Florida (independent member)
  • Jeff Blea, California (industry member)
  • Mary Scollay, Kentucky (industry member)
  • Scott Stanley, Kentucky (industry member)

The members of the Racetrack Safety Standing Committee are:

  • Susan Stover, chair (California, industry director)
  • Lisa Fortier, New York (independent member)
  • Peter Hester, Kentucky (independent member)
  • Paul Lunn, North Carolina (independent member)
  • Carl Mattacola, North Carolina (independent member)
  • Glen Kozak, New York (industry member)
  • John Velazquez, New York (industry member)

 

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The `Good’ Larry Melancon

By Bryan Krantz

Back in the days when I was in high school, I would work in the racing office at Jefferson Downs in the mornings as an entry clerk. This was before the days of computerized databases and electronically keyed-in entries. Entry blanks were bound by red glue as thick pads and filled out in pencil. Each form filled out one by one, as the jockey agents and trainers drifted into the racing office to do business. Entries were made in individual stalls for privacy and usually in a hushed tone so no one could overhear the potential competitors filling the races offered for the race day to be carded several days later.

The jockey agents were a cast of Runyon-esque all-stars. “Sad Sal the Horseman’s Pal” who had spent time in “Mandeville”…the mental hospital, Roland “Buck Eye” Dagrepoint, Lloyd L. “Cuz” Nixon, John Giambelluca, along with others would keep things lively as they entered trainers’ horses for the day after securing calls for their riders. Some of the trainers would enter their own. There are hundreds of stories about those guys and those days, but the one for today begins in those days and came to a close Mar. 25, 2021.

 

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Oklahoma Attorney General Files Lawsuit Challenging HISA

Racing at Oklahoma’s Remington Park | Dustin Orona Photography

A federal lawsuit spearheaded by the state of Oklahoma to try and get the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) voided for alleged constitutional violations was filed Monday, meaning there are now two active legal challenges in the United States court system attempting to derail the regulatory powers of the HISA “Authority” prior to that regulatory body’s planned 2022 phase-in.

According to a press release issued by the state attorney general’s office in Oklahoma, the suit is challenging that “HISA gives a private corporation broad regulatory authority over Oklahoma’s horse racing industry, and does so with no funding mechanism, forcing the financial burden onto states. If a state refuses to pay, the state’s legislature and executive agencies would be punitively banned from collecting taxes or fees to enforce their own state regulations.”

The complaint demanding declaratory judgment and injunctive relief was filed Apr. 26 in United States District Court (Eastern Division of Kentucky) even though most of the plaintiffs are based in Oklahoma or West Virginia. The lawsuit’s timing coincides with the start of the GI Kentucky Derby week festivities in that state.

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Reserved Seats Available for Lone Star

Reserved seating for Lone Star Park’s 2021 Thoroughbred Racing Season will go on sale Monday, Mar. 22. The season opens Thursday, Apr. 22 and continues through Sunday, July 11.
Lone Star Park has implemented a new ticketing system for 2021. Customers can purchase any ticket type, including general admission for any date at http://www.LoneStarPark.com/Tickets beginning Monday at 6 a.m. or by calling the reservation line at 972-263-PONY at 9 a.m. Monday.

General Admission is just $5 and reserved seating options range from $10 to $25 per person (includes admission) on most race days except on big event days and Kentucky Derby Day, which have separate pricing plans.

Stud Farms Sue Over 140-Mare Cap, Allege ‘Blatant Abuse of Power’ by The Jockey Club

By T. D. Thornton

Spendthrift Farm, Ashford Stud and Three Chimneys Farm are suing The Jockey Club in federal court over the “stallion cap” rule that went into effect in 2020, alleging that the 140-mare breeding limit now being phased in amounts to a “blatant abuse of power” that acts as an “anti-competitive restraint” and threatens to disrupt the free-market nature of the bloodstock business.

The plaintiffs contend that the stallion cap “serves no legitimate purpose and has no scientific basis” while alleging that the nine stewards of The Jockey Club who voted to adopt the rule change purportedly did so based more on a desire to satisfy their own “conflicting economic interests” rather than their organization’s stated purpose of “facilitating the soundness of the Thoroughbred breed.”

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Record Handle at Sam Houston During Houston Racing Festival

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Letruska winning the GIII Houston Ladies Classic S. | Coady Photography

Sam Houston Race Park set a record for handle during its 10-race Houston Racing Festival card Sunday, Jan. 31. Besides the $300,000 GIII Houston Ladies Classic S. and $200,000 GIII John B. Connally Turf Cup S., the fixture also featured the $200,000 Texas Turf Mil S., $100,000 Pulse Power Turf Sprint S., the $75,000 Stonerside Sprint S. and the $75,000 Jersey Lilly Turf S. A record total of $5.3 million was wagered at the Houston-area track.

“We are thrilled with the success of this year’s Houston Racing Festival and setting a record handle of $5.3 million,” said Frank Hopf, Senior Director of Racing. “It was a team effort from everyone at Sam Houston and our thanks go out to all the horsemen and owners for supporting our meet. This would not be possible without our horseplayers, both here in Texas and nationally. It was a great day.”

Desormeaux Returns to Action After Rehab

Kent DesormeauxBenoit

By Dan Ross

When racing returns to Santa Anita Dec. 26, it does so in a blitzkrieg of high-octane firepower, with races like the GI Malibu S., GI La Brea S. and GI American Oaks luring headline grabbers from across the country.

As things go, race three on the card–a $16,000 claimer–is a far less exulted companion to its starrier cousins. But the race contains its own prodigal return…that of Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux after a hiatus from the saddle. Still, it’s just the sort of low-key call to arms the jockey is looking for.

“It’s not something you get control of and go tell the world about your accomplishment,” said Desormeaux, of his newly established sobriety after a tumultuous six-month period culminating from decades of struggle.

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Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act Passes Senate

By Bill Finley

Included in a year-end government funding bill that included a $900-billion COVID-19 relief package, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was passed by the House of Representatives and Congress Monday night. The bill is expected to be signed into law shortly by President Donald J. Trump, which would mean that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, once considered a longshot to pass, will become a reality.

The passage of the bill was a a bipartisan effort led by Congressmen Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“Kentucky’s cherished horseracing traditions deserve to be protected. I’m proud the Senate agreed to my legislation to preserve our signature racing industry and the 24,000 workers who support it,” McConnell said in a statement. “With the leadership of Congressman Andy Barr and the partnership of sport leaders, horse advocates, and fans, we’re one step closer to promoting fairness and safety across Thoroughbred racing. As Majority Leader, I made this Kentucky-focused legislation a top priority in the Senate. I look forward to this major advancement for our beloved sport becoming law.”

 

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