Horse racing consultant Joe Gorajec writes in his InsideRacingRegs blog that he was “bewildered, befuddled, baffled and bemused” over a recent issue in which California Horse Racing Board vice chair Madeline Auerbach sold a share of a horse to an executive of The Stronach Group, which owns two California racetracks that the CHRB regulates.
Gorajec, formerly longtime executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, referred to the matter as a “plain-as-the-nose-on-your face appearance” of a conflict of interest, adding that it “allows anyone to view decisions the CHRB has made affecting The Stronach Group (TSG) through a tainted prism.”
The issue came up after a California-bred first-time starter by the name of Fravel (named after Craig Fravel, president and CEO of Breeders' Cup Ltd.) turned up in the entry box at Del Mar under the ownership of Auerbach, Stronach Group chief operating officer Tim Ritvo and Stacie Clark, wife of Stronach Group executive Mike Rogers. (Clark, a consultant for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, and Auerbach, who created the California aftercare funding organization CARMA, work closely together on aftercare issues.)
After the Los Angeles Times raised questions about possible conflict of interest, Ritvo sold his interest in the horse back to Auerbach, who bred the colt. The CHRB issued a statement saying the shared ownership would not have been considered a conflict of interest for Auerbach.
Yet questions remain, said Gorajec, who suggests the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsome look further into the matter. Gorajec also asks whether racing regulators should divest themselves of any bloodstock ownership when they agree to serve on racing commissions.
He then points out that the Horseracing Integrity Act, a federal bill that would create national oversight for horse racing medication rules, testing and enforcement and is supported by The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (which publishes the InsideRacingRegs blog), has strict conflict of interest rules for anyone who would serve on its board.
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