Congress Calls for Uniform Rules & a Commissioner

The congressional subcommittee has been making some headlines. In a New York Times piece yesterday titled “House Panel Takes Aim at Horse Racing Practices” it seems change might be forced on all of us.

The committee appeared to unanimously endorse a central governing body for the sport, and threatened to use the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978 to make that happen.

Breeders were especially hit hard:

“The best racehorses in the sport no longer make money for their owners on the race track — they now make money in the breeding shed,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, who chaired the hearing entitled, “Breeding, Drugs, and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Racing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse.”

“The breeders no longer have an incentive to breed horses that are sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of racing, and instead, promote fashionable, but unsound, bloodlines that are known for precocity and speed.”

Further in the DRF, virtually all panelists and speakers called for a central body for horse racing. In harness, these calls have been met with incredulity in the past. With all the fractured body's, and all the states and provinces with different rules it was considered a non starter to do this - laughable, as many have said.

Congressional leaders said Thursday during a hearing in Washington that a bill would be introduced this year putting in place some form of federal regulation of horse racing, including restrictions on drug use.

The intention to introduce legislation was made by members of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection during a hearing entitled "Breeding, Drugs, and Breakdowns." Somewhat surprisingly, the majority of racing officials who appeared on the committee's first panel agreed with the contention that racing needs a national governing authority, and several said that all race-day drugs - including the ubiquitous diuretic furosemide and the painkiller phenylbutazone - should be banned, in line with other major racing countries around the world.

Later on, several industry people relayed a sad fact, that if this is done by government alone, the special interests and everyone else (PETA perhaps?) will have their say on what the office should be about. This is frightening. It is even more reason for us in harness racing to begin the process now. No more laughing about a national body, no more excuses, no more using the word "can't". I implore the USTA and Standardbred Canada to start circulating a draft Commissioner Office Plan as soon as humanly possible. Start out with "this is how we can do it", rather than "this is why it will fail". The status quo is not an option any longer. If we let the Thoroughbred Industry have a national office without us having one, our interests will be maligned. If we are mandated to have one it is also not preferred. Let's set one up ourselves before someone else does.

In my opinion - and from reading the above I think it is a good one - the clock is ticking and we have very little time left.


Cangamble has an opine up on some of the stuff from the hearings as well. So check it out.

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