TIF: Is North American racing ready to modernize the rules to a more consistent standard?

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The stewards correctly applied the rules, as written in Kentucky, when demoting Maximum Security in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
But would a different set of stewards, perhaps in a different state and with different wording within those rules, have made the same decision? Is it not slightly maddening to think that the rules of racing across North America are different from state to state or province to province?
Imagine if pass interference rules in football or traveling violations in basketball varied depending on the location of the stadium or arena where the game was played. What was pass interference in New Orleans might not be pass interference in Los Angeles.
That is the situation North American racing is faced with, not just when it comes to adjudicating the Kentucky Derby, but every race, every day. Stakeholders do not know what to expect given the variance of the rules.
While North America applies what is known as Category 2 rules – if a horse suffers interference, the interfering horse is placed behind the sufferer of the interference – an alternative is available.
The Category 1 rules philosophy offers a more consistent experience for all involved in racing, while maintaining safety for all participants through an enhanced penalty structure for offending jockeys.
The TIF released “Changing The Rules” in November, and we invite you to revisit the paper, particularly in light of the attention on rules administration following the Derby.
While the full version of this white paper is quite lengthy (at more than 7,000 words), we believe it offers a comprehensive review of a complex situation. Please take the time to read.
“The Kentucky stewards applied the rules of the state appropriately, there should be no question regarding that,” says Thoroughbred Idea Foundation Executive Director Pat Cummings. “However, the Category 1 rules philosophy presents a better alternative, not because they are accepted in every other global jurisdiction, but because they are much easier to understand for all involved and present a more consistent experience to our customers.
“It is a preferable alternative to our current system and implements a proper system of deterrents through an enhanced penalty structure designed to maintain safety of all participants.”
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Thoroughbred Idea Foundation: Calling for a Racing Industry Compromise

The sport which brings us together is at a turning point. We have been divided for far too long on a variety of issues that impact our business. Most notably, the “Lasix debate” has been a debilitating one, inhibiting our collective ability to move ahead. The time has come for the industry to compromise – working together with all major constituencies to establish a mutually-agreed, new way forward.

The recent announcement from a coalition of racetracks to introduce changes to their house Lasix policies was met with a series of statements from certain stakeholder groups restating their long-held positions. Compromise is essential. Absent a compromise, binding mediation should be considered.

In my many years in this great sport, I have never seen racing more at risk than it is right now,” says B. Wayne Hughes, owner of Spendthrift Farm. “We have far too much at stake to continue being tied down in separate bunkers and not finding a way forward. The time for a compromise is now.

As major stakeholders, we believe the only way to grow revenue for the industry’s obligations – among them, aftercare and backstretch programs, equine research, jockey insurance and prize money – is through the growth of the sport’s overall “pie.” If our industry can collectively agree to compromise, we can finally move ahead together and address other meaningful issues that have inhibited growth in the sport for far too long.

While racing has some long-standing traditions which have shaped our collective experience, nothing is set in stone. Let’s embrace that freedom to redefine the future.

Our sport has recently been challenged in a manner that requires bold, serious and innovative action. But the longer-term reality should not be ignored, either. Foal crops are at 50-year lows. Handle is down close to 50%, adjusted for inflation, over just 15 years. Though tougher to measure, the social license racing enjoys is also questioned now more than at any point in recorded history. We must adapt to this, better exhibiting to the world – not just ourselves – the outstanding care our horses receive, and their majestic, innate desire to compete.

We must unite and emerge stronger – for the horses, for our passion, for the future.

Since our organization’s launch last summer, we’ve presented four substantive white papers tackling topics related to improving our sport’s approach to pricing, transparency, product development and access to information. Now is the time to present a fresh approach to racing. We have enlisted five industry leaders to present their take on improving different segments of racing through new approaches to long-stagnant “offices.” Their ideas will be released over the next two days.

Wagering and Innovation: Marshall Gramm (chair of Rhodes College economics department, co-founder of Ten Strike Racing)

Racing Administration and Planning: Rick Hammerle (long-time racing official, including 20 years at Santa Anita as racing secretary and vice president of racing).

Integrity and Welfare: Maggi Moss (attorney, major horse owner, leading aftercare advocate)

Communications and Marketing: John Sikura (president of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm)

Owners’ Services and Recruitment: Brad Weisbord (founder of BSW Bloodstock, ELiTE Sales)

Presented with an opportunity to re-shape our industry and mindful of our precarious position, these suggestions should be met with open minds. Our interest in a healthy thoroughbred industry is shared. The process to achieve these much-needed improvements remains rooted in compromise, with all stakeholders understanding that once-entrenched opinions must be loosened in order to establish a modern sport.

In the recently-published words of billionaire investor and philanthropist Ray Dalio, “collective decision making works much better than fragmented individual decision making so I urge you to understand it and employ it. If you don’t, you will be left behind.” Our future, as projected by five industry leaders, could be so much brighter than our past if we can collectively move beyond that which has divided us for so long and work together. Join us in this quest!

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Thoroughbred Idea Foundation Calls for Affordable Data

Group said free, or reduced-price data would spur interest in ownership, wagering.

 

An industry group focused on improving horse racing, especially for gamblers and owners, is calling on the industry’s data collector, Equibase, to share more information for free or at greatly reduced prices. In a White Paper issued March 11, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation said Equibase should consider the collection and distribution of racing data as a marketing expense and distribute it for free, or as open as possible. The White Paper argues that this approach would attract and retain gamblers while empowering owners to make more educated decisions.

TIF board member Tom Reynolds, an active handicapping tournament player who has become a horse owner through Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners after spending more than three decades as a sales and marketing executive for Pepsi-Cola North America, believes such an approach to racing’s data would help increase interest in ownership and wagering.

Read BloodHorse Article Here

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National HBPA Convention: Finding Ways To Do Things Better

Finding ways for horse racing to do things better is the overarching theme of the National HBPA Convention March 12-16 at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, Fla.

That also is the mission of the new Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, a horse-racing think tank whose representatives form the March 13 keynote panel at the annual convention staged by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and its affiliates in the United States and Canada. Launched last May, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation already has issued a trio of white papers on horse racing and legal sports betting, when interference should result in a disqualification and rounding down to the penny in mutuel payoffs.

The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation’s stated goal is “to improve the thoroughbred racing industry for all stakeholders, especially its primary customers – gamblers and owners – through the exchange, curation and advocacy of sound, data-driven ideas, shared with and implemented by the sport’s existing entities.” TIF is funded by individuals and accepts no money from industry organizations.

Panelists are Glen Hill Farm president and think-tank founder Craig Bernick, along with TIF board members Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing and horse owner-breeder Corey Johnsen of Arizona Downs and Kentucky Downs. Moderating the panel will be Justin Nicholson, a TIF board member and co-founder of Equestricon.

“I continue to try to keep the keynote address about the positiveness and what’s working in the industry,” Hamelback said. “I certainly see this panel as that. This group and their board as a whole are very bright individuals who are all vested in the industry. They have a passion to make this industry as successful as possible, not just sit by and be status quo.

“We’re in a time where our industry is poised for growth if people will take heed of the changes that we should and could make…. These are people who want this industry not only to survive but to thrive.”

Other panels and presentations include:

  • “Putting the ‘We’ in Equine Welfare” kicks off the March 13 programming by exploring what animal welfare really means, who decides what is and isn’t good welfare and why the industry must get involved in the debate. The session will be presented by Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, the New York Racing Association’s chief examining veterinarian, an accredited steward, industry consultant and attorney.

“It makes you think about what some of these activists see and things we can do to make it better,” said Hamelback, who has seen Durenberger’s presentation. “It’s dependent on how we treat our equine athlete as to how our industry moves forward, as much as growing owners and handicappers.”

  • “Accessing Our Industry’s Stats Into The Future” will discuss owners asserting their rights to statistical data collected on their horses’ performances, including gaining input on how it is used. The panel comes as Equibase is testing GPS systems to collect race and workout data of horses.
  • Michele Fischer, president of the Darting Star consulting company whose expertise includes wagering systems around the world, will make a presentation about the future of fixed-odds betting at American racetracks, including the positive impact it has had in Australian racing.
  • John Marshall, senior vice president and general manager of Virginia’s revived Colonial Downs, is the guest speaker at the awards luncheon. Among those to be recognized is 2018 Claimer of the Year Persie, the Penn National-based winner of 10 of 17 starts in claiming and starter-allowance races for owner Bush Racing and trainer Lester Stickler.
  • Dr. Steve Vickner, an economist and associate professor in the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program in the College of Business and specialist in data analytics, will present factors affecting handle in thoroughbred and standardbred races based on extensive research at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack as part of the convention’s March 14 programming.

“That’s the kind of thing we need to know if we’re going to have pertinent industry discussions on how to change things, and what we’re doing already that is a win so we don’t have to focus on that part,” Hamelback said.

  • The public portion of the convention concludes the morning of March 15 with the annual Kent Stirling Memorial Scientific Panel, which will continue to delve into one of the most important topics facing horsemen: the dangers of environmental contamination and inadvertent transfer of impermissible substances to horses. This session focuses on naturally occurring substances in feed, forage and bedding and how horsemen can protect themselves.

“We have to be cognizant what’s in the barn,” Hamelback said.

The Tampa Bay Downs HBPA is the host affiliate, including sponsoring an afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs on March 15.

View the complete agenda, speakers and panelists here.

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