Cohen's Back

Andrew Cohen, CBS News Legal analyst and horse owner shares his thoughts in this month's Trot about the state of the industry. He says what many will not say; much of it needs to be said. Will this be ignored like most opinion pieces are in racing with each acronym solely concentrated on only protecting their slice?

Cohen on racing's stakeholders:

The gulf between authority and responsibility, manifested in “fragmented and confused” leadership on every level within harness racing, is the biggest structural hurdle in our industry. Greed, self-interest, old rivalries, new ones, cowardice, laziness — all of the natural forces in humankind which serve to thwart lasting solutions — are so prevalent now in the industry that it’s hard to see the way out (and that was true before the nation’s economic climate turned dramatically worse). We all know it. And yet we do next to nothing.

On suspensions:

Dope a horse in a pari-mutuel race? Breach the promise you’ve made to your licensing agency and (by extension) to your fellow competitors? Then go away, forever, and ply some other trade. “Get rid of their asses,” leading thoroughbred owner Barry Irwin recently told Blood-Horse Magazine when asked about this issue. “Kick them out.” I cannot count the number of honest drivers and trainers and other horsemen and horsewomen who have talked privately to me about the cheaters among them. So why don’t those whispers turn into roars?

On horseman groups:

And then there are the leaders of the horsemen’s associations. More and more these folks sound and act like baseball’s union leaders — the ones who automatically appeal just about every suspension no matter how egregious the foul. These folks would have you believe that people have a right, instead of a license, to be in the business of harness racing; that ‘due process’ protects accused cheaters in our sport almost as fully as it does alleged murder suspects. Perhaps baseball can afford the luxuries of endless stays after suspensions and hapless testing policies and procedures. Harness racing cannot.

On a commish office with teeth, and funding it:

The Commissioner’s Office must be funded by every stakeholder in the sport. Owners must be willing to take less — say 85 percent instead of 90 percent — in purse money. Breeders must be willing to pay into the fund for each registered yearling. Tracks must transfer a small percentage of their handle — or allocate money into the new organization per race (or per horse). Trainers and drivers must be willing to pay significantly more to get the licenses that give them the privilege to earn their keep. The USTA and SC must do their part and charge significantly more in dues. If men and women in 2009 cannot afford to pay a few hundred dollars per year to be a part of harness racing then perhaps a life in harness racing is not for them.

These are only snippets. Full piece here and everyone in this business should read that about, oh 100 times in my view. Cohen went out on a limb and it deserves to be read and discussed and dare I say, most of it should be implemented before the year is out.


Scott said...

wow, impressive piece. He'll probably get railroaded out of the sport now...

Is there any elected position in the sport he can take on?

Pull the Pocket said...

I think 8 out of ten people agree with him in the sport Scott. However the 2 out of ten have a vice like hold on the industry and without them it can not seem to budge.

There is virtually nothing that he can take on alone in NA, much like across the pond where you are I imagine. You saw how crazy Australia was to change as well. What a business.

Allan said...

Andrew hit it on the head with respect to the internal issues. However, he does fail to address the gambling side.

Trust me, some people are ticked at his column. However hiding in the sand isn't going to do it.

ITP said...

Once again, another harness insider with all the answers but never even recognizes that harness racing is a gambling game which is the most important thing that needs to be discussed.

A track like Pocono has full fields, big purses, good horses and good racing but because they rob the patrons with 20% takeout on wps and 35% takeout on tri's and supers, their handle is pathetic. God forbid with all their slot subsidy money, they would have 15% takeout across the board, increase handle and actually try and promote interest in harness racing.

Pull the Pocket said...


On his wanting a commissioner office once of the tasks he highlights is:

"We must have within our constituency experts on betting and its relationship to horses."

I think he understands pretty well that we need customers who slave at this game every day involved in some way.

ITP said...

One short mention about the most important thing in regards to the long term survival of the sport in a vast sea of proposed problem solving which won't matter if there isn't anybody betting.

I'm not buying that he understands that focusing on increasing handle is of utmost importance.

Anonymous said...

Wow I believe that article has been brewing for sometime. I agree with his points wholehearted. He has courage to point out that the powers that be are so stuck in "their" way of doing things they are taking the rest of us down the toilet with them. I am with Andrew; tell us what to do and I am there.
P. S. As a horseman I know the first job I need to own is to be ready to report the inside crap when I see it. This is not as easy as one would imagine.
Regards, Rebecca

Pull the Pocket said...

It is tough Rebecca and I dont blame you one bit.

ITP, I know Andrew and we speak of bettor issues many times. He readily admits he is not a big bettor and he knows he needs to surround himself with them to make something positive happen. This was an article for a trade magazine so he concentrated on inside baseball stuff. Trust me, if he was ever to get a post in this game, the bettor would be in a hell of a lot better shape than we are.

I admire your passion. You know this gambling game inside and out.


ITP said...

Thanks PTP.

In regards to it being an article for Trot Magazine....the people his article is aimed at are the people that need most to hear that the sport is dead unless we do something about increasing handle.

As a bettor who is heavily invested in the industry with too many broodmares, babies and racehorses to count, it is scary how few in charge of harness racing understand that increasing handle should be the number one priority at all times.


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