Oops. They did it again.
In August 2014, I wrote an article after discovering that the website formerly devoted to the Sales Integrity Program, an initiative designed to protect Thoroughbred buyers at public auction, was deactivated and the URL address had been purchased by someone who was apparently in the business of domain squatting for profit.
Shortly after the article was published, I got a call from Dan Metzger, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, which oversees (and I use that term loosely) the Sales Integrity Program. He was not happy about the article and said TOBA would restore the website once it paid a fee to buy back the domain name from whoever had purchased it and was squatting.
That was then. This is now.
In the wake of the class action lawsuit filed recently against a Lexington veterinary hospital over the misdating of radiographs of sales horses, I was curious about whether the Sales Integrity Program covered the subject.
When I did a Google search for “Sales Integrity Program,” a link at the Keeneland Association website came up first. On Keeneland's site, within a brief explanation was a link that took me to the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association website, where I got an “Oops, this page could not be found” error message.
I did some prowling within the TOBA.org website and found, under the “Seminars and Clinics” tab, a section entitled “Sales Integrity Program.” On that page is a button with a link to the “Sales Integrity Website.”
Unfortunately, when I clicked that button, taking me to salesintegrity.org, I got a message from GoDaddy.com saying, “This domain name expired on 2/8/2019 and is pending renewal or deletion.”
I came to find out that the domain name has been renewed, so Thoroughbred buyers can take heart that the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association has not given up entirely on the concept of “sales integrity.”
It's just off line for a while. As Yoga Berra used to say, “It's deja vu all over again.”
On a serious note: This industry is not exactly bursting at the seams with people interested in owning Thoroughbred racehorses. The 31 percent reduction in the foal crop from 10 years ago, from over 32,000 to less than 20,000, is not the result of a shortage of mares or stallion semen. There are fewer end users driving demand for the production of Thoroughbred foals.
That may be because the game's aging fan base is not producing enough people willing or with the financial wherewithal to invest in a racing stable. Let's not forget: you have to be a fan of racing before you take the next step to become an owner. It may be because there is more downside to the economics of owning horses than there is upside to the enjoyment owners get from having a racing stable. And it might be because of the reputation – deserved or not – that this can be a very shady game for someone with more money than common sense to get involved in.
Questionable practices at public auction, including dual agency and buyer kickbacks, led to the creation of the Sales Integrity Program after the late Jess Jackson pushed for more transparency and for a bloodstock agency code of conduct nearly 15 years ago. The task force that led to the program even received the “Industry Service Award” from TOBA in 2008. If it was that important then, it should be important enough now to have its website maintained and monitored.
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