There's a good piece on the Bloodhorse regarding yesterday's meeting about potential drug disclosure rules that took place in California.
In effect, it goes a little like this: Horses move from trainer to trainer. When a new trainer gets a horse, he or she has no idea if it was injected in every joint last week, or last month, or last year. If the animal is being treated for allergies, or an ailment, it's a secret. If it had a hairline cryo'd, if it has an issue with his back, or stifle, it's "buyer beware".
Some jurisdictions have already dealt with this issue, like Ontario, but as often is the case in racing, SOP's are not created industry wide, but in each state, like they're on an island. It's California's turn to talk about it.
Not surprisingly, some trainers are vociferously against this.
"Ellis also brought up the competitiveness of the claiming game and
how the potential requirement to disclose treatment methods and use
would go against that competitive nature. He also brought up the cost of
hiring extra staff to keep the records."I'll never ask another trainer, 'What did you do with this horse?'
because I'm not going to get the truth," Ellis said. "They're not going
to tell me the truth. This is a competitive game..."
That's the state of the claiming game for many. It's about, "unloading the rat" on unsuspecting owners. Some folks want that protected.
The business has to ask itself why - when purses are at all time record levels for most of racing, race dates are down, where average purses are up - there aren't more new owners at the grassroots levels. The economics say there should be.
The business has to ask itself why - when the stock market is up 1600% since 1985 - there are not more people with disposable income, near retirement, who have not pivoted that money into a few horses like they did 25 years ago.
One of the reasons why, is that buying horses is an anachronism. It was built for a time when horse traders pulled one over on each other; when people "didn't tell the truth" about investments.
The used car sale business is huge, because when anyone searches for a used car it passes inspection first. Home sales work because if the house has asbestos in the walls, and a leaky basement, it's disclosed because the home seller doesn't want to go to jail by not disclosing it. The stock market works because company "A" and everyone else has to disclose its numbers according to GAAP, and if that company lies, there's a good chance someone is going to the greybar hotel.
We, in the public, expect disclosure when we purchase something. It's how commerce works.
In racing, doing the same thing is "too costly", "too much work", and about "not telling the truth".
And people scratch their heads, wondering why the business has trouble attracting new owners?
I remember back about 15 years ago, a family friend - a salt of the earth type fellow - told me he'd get in the game when it was cleaned up. After some progress, he jumped in. He bought 25 horses over a year's period, and a farm, where he could breed mares. He went all in.
Today, when he sells his horses at a sale, he tells potential new owners everything they want to know about the horses; their ailments, their issues, their feed, their vet work, their idiosyncrasies. I ask him why he does that. He says "it's proper business."
This business needs more owners and trainers like that, and fewer of the Dodge City horse traders of the past. It's not 1886, it's 2016 and the modern horse investor expects more from the sport than it's getting. It's up to people in power in horse racing to deliver that to them.
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