At a Thursday meeting of the California Horse Racing Board, commissioners unanimously approved a measure to withdraw from the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), citing differing philosophies, among other issues.
The possibility of withdrawal had come up after commissioners say a change in the RCI's structure awarded board positions based on number of wagering events rather than amount of total dollars wagered, throwing a preference on commissions overseeing dog racing. California lost its board seat to West Virginia as a result.
The CHRB, which had been a member of ARCI since 1994, pays $27,500 annually in dues to the agency, which crafts model rules but which does not have the authority to force their adoption.
Discussion at Thursday's meeting focused on some of the steps California has taken in the wake of a rash of fatalities at Santa Anita Park, which go a step farther than current ARCI model rules in several areas, particularly whip use and the administration of race-day furosemide.
“Mr. Chairman, members of the commission, nobody's going to agree 100 percent of the time, but it's no reason to end a marriage,” said ARCI president Ed Martin. “Especially when there's more common ground than not.”
One California-based owner questioned whether separating from the ARCI at a time when horse racing needs uniformity was really a wise move. CHRB commissioners and Martin agreed that the commission would not be prohibited from adopting model rules, which are published publicly, and could rejoin the ARCI at a later time if the two organizations eventually came together again philosophically.
“We are, in our view, out front of what ARCI is doing. We believe that by participating in ARCI there's sort of a conflict because the rules are different,” said CHRB chairman Chuck Winner in response to Martin. “As you pointed out, dog racing are participants … some of us on this board are very much opposed to Greyhound racing and dog racing. So for us to be a part of that organization is also somewhat troubling.”
“I can tell you that your colleagues are watching with great interest the changes that you've made with the sincere hope that they are effective at reducing breakdowns,” said Martin. “Our existing model rules have helped, but not solved the problem. All of us must collectively do better and that is what the CHRB, as well as your colleagues, are all focused on.
“Nobody denies the problem. If we did, we wouldn't spend as much time as we do on it.”
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