Congressional hearing will be missing important viewpoints

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Can the federal government make things better when it comes to the regulation of medication policies for horse racing? A better question might be: Can it get any worse?

Plenty of people will answer “yes” to that second question, citing any number of U.S. government agencies that are increasingly under attack for being inefficient, bloated bureaucracies.

The Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and in the Senate by Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, no doubt will be the focal point of discussion either during or after Monday’s Congressional hearing on horseracing in Kennett Square, Pa. The hearing itself will be a dog and pony show not that dissimilar, I imagine, from other agenda-driven gatherings of Congress, when only one side of an argument is being presented (think about the recent hearing on women’s reproductive rights, when a panel of men was invited to speak).

There is another side to this issue, but before we discuss that, let’s remember what this specific legislation is designed to do:

— Eliminate from horse racing performance-enhancing drugs (a definition that needs a lot more clarity than it currently has in the language).

— Require drug-testing labs to meet internationally accepted accreditation standards.

— Establish strict nationally uniform penalties for violators.

The bill does not create a new government entity but puts enforcement power in the hands of the existing Federal Trade Commission, a nearly 100-year-old agency.

I wrote earlier this week that the witness list is a stacked deck in favor of federal medication guidelines for horseracing, something I believe would be beneficial to our industry.

It’s too bad, however, that people like Foster Northrop, a practicing racetrack veterinarian who serves on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and trainer Dale Romans, vice president of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, weren’t invited to speak at Monday’s hearing.

I don’t necessarily agree with what they said during the recent debate on the issue of banning Lasix as a permitted race-day medication, but both men put forth persuasive arguments to Kentucky’s racing commission to continue the practice.

Northrop voted against proposed regulations to phase out the use of Lasix, beginning with 2-year-olds of 2013. I suggested he might have had an economic conflict of interest in casting that vote, but I have since learned that race-day Lasix shots account for only about 1% of his practice’s annual income. Further, while the racing commission did not pass the Lasix phase-out when the issue deadlocked on a 7-7 vote, it did approve new regulations that will turn daily Lasix shots over to a third-party vet hired by the commission or racing association, probably by the end of this year. In other words, private practitioners in Kentucky will not be giving Lasix to horses once it goes through the public hearing process in Frankfort.

Numerous trainers have told me that vet bills are likely to go up, not down, if race day use of Lasix is banned. I have no way of knowing whether or not that is true.

One thing I want to make clear about Northrop: His vote did not hinge on whether or not continued use of Lasix on race day will be good for his business.

Northrop believes Lasix is the best way to currently treat exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. If it is phased out, however, he firmly believes it should be done on a national basis.

Does that mean Northrop would support the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011? I don’t know. Too bad he doesn’t have a chance to testify on that issue.

Romans spoke on behalf of the status quo (keeping Lasix as a permitted medication on race-day), but not because he is a “pro-drug” trainer. Romans, like Northrop and many other veterinarians and trainers, is convinced that Lasix is a therapeutic medication that treats a very common problem better and more economically than anything else currently available.

Furthermore, as a Kentuckian, Romans is very concerned that the state’s racing program is going through a period of severe economic hardship because of the non-level playing field created when other states (most recently New York) have benefited from revenue from slot machines or casinos.

The phasing out of Lasix, Romans is convinced, would give horsemen in Kentucky one more reason to pack up their stables and move their operations elsewhere. In other words, the basis of his support for the current medication policies is that he is pro-Kentucky racing, not pro-drugs.

I think his point of view would also have been an important one for members of Congress to hear, whether they agreed with him or not.

But that’s not the way this show is going to play out.

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  • Meyer1127

    If the Power had cleaned up it’s own mess to start with there would be no meeting or hearing going on .
    This no body can touch me way of thinking is going to destroy the industry in the long run.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    I am curious, do they typically have “Congressional Hearings” in a school?  I agree this is a completely biased dog and pony show…just in time for the Derby so the politicians can get the most camera time.  It would be nice if some pro-lasix (not pro all raceday drugs) individuals were asked to attend, especially if this list includes the blue collar owners and trainers that make up the vast majority or racing.  The big name owner, while good for PR, generally makes up an insignificant percentage of the industry.  Not taking away anything from their love of the game or what they ahve put into racing, but simple math shows that the number of horses they own are a mere fraction of a percent of the industry.

  • Jimbo

    It’s not necessarily a good idea to have racing people telling Congress and the public about injecting drugs in horses to get them to race better.

  • voiceofreason

    For Thoroughbred Racing today, there are no words more
    appropriate that Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”:

    ABOUT OUR INDUSTRY “LEADERS”:

    “Once upon a time you dressed so fine
    You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you ?
    People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
    You thought they were all kiddin’ you
    You used to laugh about
    Everybody that was hangin’ out
    Now you don’t talk so loud
    Now you don’t seem so proud
    About having to be scrounging for your next meal.”

    ABOUT THE “MEDICATION” CULTURE:

    You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
    But you know you only used to get juiced in it
    And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
    And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it
    You said you’d never compromise
    With the mystery tramp, but know you realize
    He’s not selling any alibis
    As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
    And say do you want to make a deal?

    ABOUT FEDERAL INTERVENTION:

    “Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
    When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
    You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.”

    IN GENERAL:

    “How does it feel?
    How does it feel?
    To be on your own
    With no direction home
    Like a complete unknown
    Like a rolling stone ?”

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    Good point.  Because our country is based on the premise that decisions should be made from a single point of view without feedback from different parties.

  • Bhope

    It is interesting to note that we have seen many sports celebrities in court over game day medicaments and currently too, but there is no rush to have the Feds take over or e regulate those sport(s). Further, it is interesting to see the “all or nothing” positions taken on both sides of the issue.  It is also interesting that horsemen’s groups are opposed to a trial period of not injecting two-year-olds, allowing an assessment of results to one of the most lightly raced and most vulnerable assets in the sport and industry.  Two year olds represent an estimated less than 25% of horses in training by approximately less than 30% of licensed trainers and race, on average of less than once a day.  Where’s the problem ?

  • Ridindirty3

    Here’s the problem:

    1+1=2
    2+1=3
    3+1=4

    Get it?

  • RayPaulick

    Congressional Hearings are conducted outside of Washington, D.C., on occasion, although they operate under the same guidelines and rules. They are called “field hearings” and normally take place in an area of specific interest to the committee or subcommittee holding the hearing.

  • Watcher

    The “other point of view” has been in charge. And they’ve  screwed up racing. It is correct and proper for the committee to hear from the people who oppose them.

  • Stanley inman

    Voice of reason:

    Poetry to live our lives by
    So sweet

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    Stanley, if I ask really nicely, will you please hitting the <enter> button after each sentence and just you a period?  Disqus is bad enough as it is…please.</enter>

  • Hrprfan

    For the Love of God can we please get a list of names
    of the INDUSTRY LEADERS that are so often referred to please? If we don’t have
    a list of names how can we hold them responsible?

  • desertrailrat

    Yes it’s very sad that they didn’t invite an overweight heavy drinking trainer who lets his young son run around the track with a wad of $100′s illegally placing wagers to represent the status quo.  Ray, seriously?  

  • Stanley inman

    Stewart,
    English not so good
    What mean; “if I ask really nicely”;
    “just you a period”
    What mean this?
    Me no understand

  • Don Reed

    I love comic exaggeration as much as the next appreciator of wit, but really, DRR, restate this. 

    What you’ve written is so (unnecessarily) extreme, Ray cannot fail but to be the beneficiary of this exchange, which, I trust, you will allow me to stay out of, since my interest in the matter itself is minimal.

  • Stanley inman

    U funny man
    Make me laugh

  • desertrailrat

    Video does not lie. Perhaps a more articulate ambassador would be in order. Hows that?
    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

    —–Original message—–

  • Don Reed

    Stewart: If you’re referring to sentences not extending naturally all the way to the right, what you’re advising might not be the cure.

    When I write a response to a PR item: If it threatens to be lengthy (guaranteeing misspellings), I’ll first compose it on Word.

    The problem is that Disqus is a 3rd World version of the New York Daily News when it comes to transferring information.

    (You would think that, since Disqus HQ is located in the self-proclaimed center of the IQ Universe, San Francisco, this would not be possible.  It is.) 

    If what is written on Word (because we need to spell-check, not offered here) is then cut-and-pasted onto this forum, when the writer hits “enter,” what occurs next could account for the early demise of editor Horace Greeley.

    (He also would have noticed that your “you” should be “use.”  “Use” can be phonetically used in place of “yours,” but only in the borough of Brooklyn, New York.)

    The text then appears here with the first line 3-4 words long, the next full length, and so on.  Wavy lines.  Scrambled eggs.

    If I have not interpreted your admonition correctly, please forgive.

  • Larry Ensor

    Rep. Joe Pitts’ office is just down the road from the venue. Unionville HS was just completely renovated and is actually a very good place to hold it. This is where Unionville horse country meets suburbia. An area about as big if not bigger then the horse country around Lexington. The New Bolton Center is only a few miles away. And a number of Thoroughbred farms nearby. When Bobby Frankel visited the area a few years ago he said to me he had no idea that there was another place like Lexington only prettier.

  • Indulto

    I’d like to second that emotion, but for the love of the game.

    Does it look as if God wants anything to do with this industry? Or Congress for that matter?

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    thats precisely what this first meeting will be…”A SHOW”…to get the ball roll n!!!…with all due respect to those invited to speak & those that will ask the questions…@ the next meeting i would like to see SOME middle & upper middle class Horseman (female/male) getting a invite…ty…

  • JSqu

    if this is passed Canada will love America! That is where the 30% race horses will have to race. Sad Owners vet bills will double trying evrything possible to help their investment no bleed… Oh Canada……..

  • JSqu

    5 horse fields will be great for betters. Everyone will love to come this. Im going to Nascar. Damn tree huggers

  • YADA

    people bleeding is not good for racing!!!!! Short fields not good for racing… take away bute dont take away lasix….. Make sure to tell your favorite football team no motrin for u…..

  • Stanley inman

    James,
    I don’t get the relevance of your suggestion about middle-class or any class issues.
    I thought the finish line settles issues about
    The irrelevance of ownership in this sport-
    Why we love the chance to compete.
    Should we have a handicap division based on income or zip code.
    I love competing against the big dogs
    Sportsmen don’t complain in defeat.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    After reading the 4th or 5th line of your sentences I got confused and my spelling and grammar took a serious hit.

    I write a sentence.  I write a 2nd sentence.  I use a comma.  I use another comma.  I let the text scroll and wrap.

    Stanley writes a sentence
    Stanley writes a 2nd sentence
    Stanley does not use a comma
    Stanley does not use another comma
    Stanley does not let the text scroll and wrap.

    Let it scroll my man and I will work on my grammar.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    The point is that the blue collar horsemen that make up 95% or more of owners and trainers should have a voice, not just owners and trainers who have made a public name for themselves by running in big and well publicized races.  This has absolutely nothing to do with competition…he is referring to fair representation.

  • Indulto

    Mr. Inman,
    Please define “sportsman.”

    Mr. Nickel,
    Please  define “blue collar.”

    Can either or both of you define “level playing field?”

  • Stanley inman

    Interesting how “class” ( elite/nonelite) is manifested in this sport. There is a real love-hate relationship with economic status here.
    To use the term blue-collar is meaningless unless when speaking about grooms, exercise riders and those who make the sport happen. when applied to trainers, if they have a public stable then technically they are small business entrepreneurs. Can there be a blue-collar owner of a race horse. Again technically yes but anyone fortunate to be an owner of a thoroughbred racehorse, in the eyes of the rest of the world is an “elite”, regardless of their adjusted gross income on their tax return.
    So in the context of this audience to differentiate between blue-collar and elites I believe misses much of the analysis and thus understanding about the sport’s governance; like I said before, it’s bad form to rag on those who beat you to the winners circle.

  • Stanley inman

    Indulto,
    Someone who plays a sport? exhibiting the “best”, highest standards; rules and ethos of a particular sport; modeling behaviors which are consistent with the sport’s finest traditions? .I.e. Congratulating your opponent in defeat? Not complaining about how much their horse cost, how little you gave for yours, treating your staff as an equal, showing respect for your horse and not saying your doing what’s best for your equine partner as you squeeze the plunger of the syringe when your mainlining him to win a race?

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    Stanley,

    Not that I ever had any respect for your pointless rants but this one may be the most meaningless and uneducated I have seen yet.  If you don’t understand the difference between blue collar and white collar owners in racing then you simply have no clue, period.  Not even worth explaining it to you.

    On the bright side, I do appreciated the proper formatting of your reply.

  • Tinky

    Stewart,

    Using your definition of “blue collar” (Stanley was right to question it), there are countless such horsemen who compete in Europe, Asia, Australia and NZ, and the vast majority are quite happy with their (non-mediaction) status quo. Assuming that a substantial percentage of their American counterparts want to cling to the use of Lasix, why do you suppose that is? 

  • Stanley inman

    Stewart ,
    What can I say,
    I guess your right! I wAs hoping for a bit of
    Intellectual discourse
    But,
    What right do you have
    to ask me how to write my comments?
    I was being generous by acknowledging your request
    Even though you were out of line to do so.

  • Concerned Observer

    What rock have you been under? Hancock, Strawbridge, Irwin and 400 more.

  • Concerned Observer

    Stewart,

    If I understand your argument, Blue collar owners should be able to play by different (medication) rules because they are poor?

    And poor people (like grooms)  should be allowed to steal your stuff…because they don’t have any?

    And short basketball players should be allowed to travel and step out of bounds…. because they can not dunk?

    This is a new set of realities.

    Wow, this casts a whole new light on the discussion.

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    fta cat owners do not want to see thousand dollar Horses winning million dollard races…hope like hell DONE TALKING takes it to em!!!…fat cat$ would love to see BLUE COLLAR HORSEMAN GO AWAY…HEAR TO STAY BABY!!!…ty you Stewart Nickle…got it now Stan the Man???…

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    Do you bother ro read anything before posting nonsense like this? 

    I was referring specifically to representation in the congressional hearings.  How is anything you just posted related to the point I was making?

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    VERY WELL SAID…TY…

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    “Intellectual discourse” is only possible when you have (2) or more individuals capable of sticking to a specific topic without going off on tangents completely unrelated to the original topic.

    I talk about representation in a congressional hearing and you turn this into a class warfare discussion.  And if I am out of line for pointing out how you are completely off topic and/or clueless then I don’t apologize.

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    stan u would boo a cancer cure…your mouth is bad form…PERIOD…

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    Tinky,

    Again, I am talking about representation in the congressional hearing!  Your response and Stanley’s response is completely off topic (at least the point I was raising).

  • Tinky

    It is not off-topic, as presumably you believe that such representation would provide balance to an otherwise stacked (anti-Lasix) panel. Am I incorrect in reading that into your point?

  • Stanley inman

    Indulto,
    “level paying field” issue is raised by those who can’t find the winners circle;
    Winners celebrate
    Losers agonize over their defeat
    Poor sportsmenship finds away to rationalize their failure
    Due to the lack of a “level playing field”
    Tedious isn’t it

  • Stanley inman

    James,
    it’s called displacement;
    Putting your thoughts, desires on another,
    Read about it
    It will remove some of your delusional thinking
    You’ll be a happier camper
    Your love ones will thank you for it.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    My point is that owners such as Gretchen Jackson should not have more credibility in the discussion than other owners just because she has raced well known horses.  Just because she spends more on horses and has raced on the national stage doesn’t mean she can offer better insight into the discussion…and this goes for pro or anti lasix positions.

    If owners like Gretchen Jackson, while great for the game, represent an insignificant % of horses owned and raced in the US, why would her testimony be more valuable than other owners who own and run signifcantly more but lesser value horses (what I am referring to as the blue collar owner)?

    The whole basis of a valid debate is equal and fair representation.  How can the point I am making be seen as unreasonable?

  • Stanley inman

    Stewart,
    You’re right again,
    It’s for you to decide
    if we are on the subject or not
    Thanks for keeping me on topic,
    I’ll just send my comment to you first
    so you can make sure
    I’m getting it right

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    Here is an analogy I think you will appreciate (then again, my assumption is probably wrong). 
     
    Securities Law defines “accredited investors” largely based on net worth.  This implies that if you don’t have x amount of money then you are not intelligent enough to make an informed decision regarding investments.  There are plenty of smart people who do not have x amount of money and the premise of the “accredited investor” definition is flawed, arrogant and discriminatory.

    If you limit owner representation to only those who have been on the national stage (through hard work and experience but also through having VERY deep pockets) then you are basically saying they are accredited investors and unless you have reached this level then you are not intelligent enough to be part of the discussion.

  • Tinky

    I never suggested that it was unreasonable to push for balanced representation. I simply asked why it is that the “blue collar” owners in the U.S. might have, as a group, such a different perspective on Lasix than both the elites and their BC counterparts abroad.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    The reality is most of the “white collar” outfits are only interested in Stakes quality horses and if their horses don’t perform to this level,  they either sell them or drop them in claiming races to lose them.  Since Stakes races makes up a fraction of a percent of all races and these owners represent a fraction of a percent of all owners, why would they be in a better position to provide testimony?

    I will leave it at that.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    And the topic is US racing and a US congressional hearing on US policies.  I cannot comment on how financial status impacts racing throughout the world or what position WC or BC owners have in other countries.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    Thanks Stanley.  That will save us a lot of time in the future and likely prevent many improperly formatted responses.

    See, there is always room for compromise and to work together!

  • Hrprfan

    Hancock Strawbridge Irwin and 400 more. Thats answer I thought someone give. 400 more mmmmm lets 400 more accountable, that will work. Lets name leaders, get a list and put pressure on them till they break.

  • Hrprfan

    Another escaped into retirement without being held accountable…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OPYWICKFKTSPHHUKZQGUAM75JQ BILLIE

    I don’t know where you have been but 5 horse fields are common today with lasix…

  • James Staples

    cause hes a dumb @SS Mr. Nickle…ty…

  • James Staples

    Ray needs to get it STRAIGHT (disqus)…???…

  • voiceofreason

    Disqus is insanity. Look at this thread… could anything be more annoying?

  • equine

    Yeah Don, 99% of my posts are from a mobile. Discus is extremely dysfunctional on the Android platform. Anything more than about two short sentences appears to trigger a seizure. If you even attempt to correct typos, the screen exits to the far right white area so you cannot even see what you typed. Worse still is if you made mistake in the last line of the text box. You cannot correct it, nor can you even complete a sentence. Just like everything in our industry, you either keep moving forward with the mistakes or you leave the game.

  • Concerned Observer

    Stewart, I certainly did read all your posts. You say the blue collar owner  (a real mischaracterization) should be represented in the hearings. OK

    Is that because they have very different views than the “Big Name” owners?

    Is one of those different views, …..Our cheaper horses can only compete if we use meds…ie:  “let us use meds because that is the only way we can play” debate.

    So they want different rules based upon economic factors?

    Please try to logically follow the thread of your own arguments.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    See my comments below to Tinky, read slowly and try your best to understand what I am saying.  And since I am pretty sure you have never owned a horse in your life, you are in no position to characterize owners on any level.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    The only thing that could be more annoying is how it is possible for subsequent posts to be even more narrow!

  • Don Reed

    Where are the five-tree fields of yesteryear?

  • Don Reed

    Certainly an improvement!

  • Don Reed

    The kids using this system between 2000-12 are perfectly positioned to have forgotten everything they ever learned (if they ever did) about literacy.

    Can’t wait to see the cel phone junkies running the country by oh say 2030.

  • Don Reed

    Your Stanley poetry is admired for its structural design & grandeur.

  • Box of chocolates

    Stuuuuuuuuuwooooort
    Mamaaaaaaaa said you treat everyone badly because no one loves you. I said I love stuuuuuuuuWoort. But she said that’s cause I’m retardeeeeeeed.

  • Chuck

    why should there even be a hearing on giving a drug to a horse who has no choice?….the racing industry has gotten away with this unethical practice for a long long time….where is the shame?…for some to say they care about the horse is hypocritical….breeding better horses is the right way but that is just too much work….

  • BILLIE

    everywhere!!

  • Concerned Observer

    Based upon your own  web site,  I own more than you. Can’t really understand why I let myself get sucked into this kind of a no logic discussion,  which veers off into irrelavance and insults as soon as your point of view is questioned.

  • http://www.winnerscirclepartners.com/ Stewart Nickel

    I’m sure you do big guy.  I guess your vast experience in the industry is what makes you a Concerned “Observer”.  Maybe you should change you cowardly handle to something that better fits your standing in the industry. 

    Or maybe be an adult and use your real name since you are such a critical component of the industry.

  • Nucky Thompson

    When are the five horse fields coming to Florida ? I wish , all my horses are entered in 10 horse fields and some of them end on the AE list. What do you have to do to make a check here ?. Anyway Barry Irwin will be proud of me , I just bought a 2 y o at the OBS sale and told the trainer that in no circumstance is he to run on Lasix. There goes another $40,000 !

  • voiceofreason

    There’s a lot of us out there Nucky. Playing by the rules and trying to do the right thing by the horse. In racing they have a word for us: “Suckers”.

  • Tidewaterhorse

    If we don’t take care of our own problems, do we really want the government to do it for us?

  • Glenn Thompson

    The blue collar owner is represented, I am going and have been an owner, trainer and breeder for 25 years.

  • Barry Irwin

    Nucky, you rascal, Team Valor will not run any of its 2yo this season on Lasix, so don’t feel alone. Just give that 2yo plenty of time to get over his experience as a sale’s entrant. That could take awhile.

  • Barry Irwin

    Yeah, do they have barbecue, burgoo, Wildcat basketball, rednecks, Keeneland and no slots?

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