Strawbridge, Weber resign TOBA membership in protest over Graded Stakes medication ban delay

by | 03.02.2012 | 12:47pm

Two days ago Thoroughbred Daily News columnist and European-based bloodstock adviser Bill Oppenheim called the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's American Graded Stakes Committee “gutless” because it delayed putting in place a new 2012 policy whose goal was to ban race-day medication for 2-year-olds competing in Graded Stakes.

Oppenheim said he was resigning as a member of the TOBA because of the AGS Committee's move.

Today, George Strawbridge Jr. of Augustin Stable and Charlotte C. Weber of Live Oak Plantation sent an email to TOBA president Dan Metzger saying they were also resigning from the organization. Oppenheim may have a bigger platform with his TDN column, but Strawbridge and Weber have considerably more clout within the industry. Heirs to the Campbell Soup fortune, Strawbridge and Weber own large racing and breeding operations and are members of numerous organizations, including The Jockey Club.

Their email  to TOBA president Metzger reads:

Dear Dan,

We were appalled by your recent decision to not enforce a previously announced ban on race day medication for juvenile graded stakes.  It was one of the most craven acts we have witnessed.  The question now has to be asked “What does TOBA stand for?”  Your actions clearly demonstrate that TOBA doesn't stand for anything.

As a result we are resigning our membership in your organization.


George Strawbridge, Jr
Augustin Stable

Charlotte C. Weber
Live Oak Plantation

Strawbridge, Honor Guest last November at the Thoroughbred Club of America's Testimonial Dinner, was an early proponent, along with Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stables and Arthur and Staci Hancock of Stone Farm, for federal legislation that would ban medication in racehorses.  Numerous others have signed letters of support for federal ban. That legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, was introduced last May but has made no progress in Congress.

Reynolds Bell, who at the time was TOBA's chairman (he was succeeded in August by Peter Willmott), said this at the time the federal legislation was introduced:

““The public perception of Thoroughbred racing and the health of our equine athletes are of utmost concern to TOBA.  However, due to public demand and the desire to standardize worldwide polices, it is now time for our sport to openly and honestly deal with the use of therapeutic race-day medication.  TOBA supports the elimination of race-day medication.  Although horseracing in this country is the most regulated sport with the most extensive drug testing program and medication policies, our customers are telling us to address this issue.

“Progress has been made in reforming our medication policies in recent years to improve the integrity of the sport.  TOBA has supported these reforms not only through the endorsement of our organization, but also by the actions of the American Graded Stakes Committee.  A number of leading industry stakeholders have commenced efforts to address the policy and scientific issues around race-day medication.  We believe this effort should be given the opportunity to demonstrate once again our sport's commitment to the goals of increased integrity, safety and consumer confidence. However, if we are unable to accomplish this objective in a short and defined period of time, perhaps a bill from the federal government is the step that should be considered for the improvement and future of our sport.”

Dr. J. David Richardson, the chairman of TOBA's American Graded Stakes Committee, justified the delay because of the slow progress that has been made with state regulatory agencies that would need to change their rules before a race-day medication ban on 2-year-olds could take place. (For more, read his interview earlier today in the Paulick Report.)

In light of TOBA's delay and increasing criticism by some of its most prominent members, one has to wonder if the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association will be brave enough to be the first organization in racing to support the federal legislation.

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