EXCLUSIVE: NTRA CONFIDENTIAL

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:46am

By Ray Paulick

Within two weeks of the June 19 Congressional hearings that looked into Thoroughbred racing's safety and medication issues, a small group of industry insiders met at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., to discuss potential reforms that could stave off threatened federal intervention.

A confidential discussion document that came out of the Keeneland meeting and talks with other industry stakeholders outlines a far-reaching program of potential reforms as well as suggestions for implementing and enforcing them. The Paulick Report has obtained a copy of that confidential discussion document and memorandum (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) sent to the board of directors of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association written July 9 by NTRA CEO Alex Waldrop.

Among the possible reforms discussed in the document are minimum national standards for medication, drug testing and penalties; benchmark safety standards of racing surfaces and/or a mandatory switch to synthetic tracks; a ban or limitation on racing fillies against colts; eliminating timed workouts at 2-year-old sales and distance restrictions for 2-year-old races; a funding mechanism for permanently disabled jockeys; wagering protocols and mandatory public disclosure of wagering abnormalities; uniform scratch rules and “other player-friendly advances”; integrity clauses and potential revocation of Eclipse Awards for individuals involved in infractions; and a national placement program for retired racehorses.

“As part of our post Triple Crown public relations and communications strategy based on consumer research findings, it is clear that the industry must implement real reforms in the area of horse health and safety ,” Waldrop wrote in the memorandum to the NTRA board. “It is equally clear that the NTRA must play a leadership role to ensure responsible, timely and uniform execution of the equine health and safety reforms put forth by a number of industry organizations, including The Jockey Club Safety Committee. To that end, we believe it will be necessary for industry stakeholders to come together to reach consensus on industry reforms and to agree upon the methodology for timely implementation.”

Waldrop recommended two days of meetings of industry leaders in Lexington, Ky., Sept. 3-4.

Waldrop called the confidential discussion document “far-reaching and ambitious to say the least and impacts virtually all segments of the industry. However,” he added, ” it appears that virtually all segments of the industry are in agreement that if we do not take pro-active action on the integrity front, the Federal government will very likely act on our behalf. And the questions from fans and media asking, 'What has the industry done since Eight Belles?', will come soon enough.”

Congressman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, the ranking Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that conducted the hearings, is calling for an amendment to the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 that would set minimum standards for racetracks wishing to conduct interstate simulcasting.

In fact, the threat of federal intervention will be used as leverage to get people on-board with the reforms, the document suggests. Suggested implementation would occur in four phases, beginning with “house rules” at racetracks “commencing upon the start of each track's first full racing meeting in 2009.” Phases II and III would depend on adoption of model rules and minimum standards by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and its member associations in various racing states. The final suggested phase would be the formation of a “national governing body comprised of key industry stakeholder and legislative bodies under an interstate compact.”

Potential penalties for failing to comply with whatever reforms are pushed are loss of eligibility to host a graded race, loss of Breeders' Cup stakes money or consideration as host site of the championships, loss of NTRA membership or loss of right to conduct interstate simulcasting.

The discussion document also calls for the commitment of owners, trainers and jockeys to compete only at tracks that operate under the agreed upon rules.

Copyright © 2008, The Paulick Report

 

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