NBA’s Stern, WADA Chief Howman, Stronach Highlight Pan American Conference

by | 06.06.2015 | 12:02am
Stuart Janney

The two-day Pan American Conference, co-hosted by The Jockey Club, the breed registry for Thoroughbreds in North America, and the Latin American Racing Channel (LARC), concluded Friday afternoon at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City with presentations from prominent individuals from inside and outside the Thoroughbred racing industry focusing on anti-doping, globalization and marketing.

More than 300 representatives from 27 countries attended the conference, and they will be attending Saturday's 147th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, where American Pharoah will attempt to become the sport's 12th Triple Crown winner.

The lineup of speakers on Friday included David J. Stern, commissioner emeritus of the National Basketball Association; David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA); Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA); Stuart S. Janney III, vice chairman of The Jockey Club; and Frank Stronach, founder and honorary chairman of The Stronach Group.

Stern's remarks focused largely on the NBA's marketing efforts, both internationally and through the use of social media.

“It became clear to me early on that corporations all felt like their future was in global [marketing],” he said. “There were several billion people out there and while soccer was the number one sport in the world, there was an opportunity for everyone else to joust to be number two.”

In addition to using social media to “aggregate” the racing community, Stern suggested that fantasy sports provide “an enormous opportunity for Thoroughbred racing.”

“Fantasy is another way to get people interested in your sport and you can go one better than fantasy because with Thoroughbred racing they can make a legal wager anytime they want. Fantasy has demonstrated what we already knew: Americans love to gamble.”

He stressed that marketing of a sport was worthless unless the product was a good one and that racing may need to take steps to improve the image some have of the sport.

“You have to fight with anybody who doesn't treat your sport with the respect you think it deserves,” he said.

Howman described the history, role and practices of WADA.

“WADA's role is to protect the rights of the clean athlete, so that they can have full confidence in the global anti-doping system,” he said. “WADA is committed to increasing the volume of research dedicated to developing new and improved detection methods for prohibited substances and methods.”

Romanet discussed the IFHA's Horse Welfare Committee and its commitment to encourage appropriate punishment for improper treatment of horses. The committee plans to introduce Good Horse Welfare Practice Guidelines for various topics.

Romanet also pointed out the benefit and need for international conferences such as the Pan American Conference.

“Regional conferences have become an absolute necessity to prepare and complete the work of IFHA and to identify main issues arising in their regions,” he said.

Janney touched on The Jockey Club's reasons for pursuing federal legislation involving the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to expedite uniform, national medication reform.

“We are one of the few countries permitting race-day medication,” he said. “Our fans are concerned about the integrity of the sport. And we are divided on exactly how to reform our medication policies.”

Regarding The Jockey Club's decision to seek an affiliation with USADA, Janney noted that the organization was “not a government entity and works very effectively with many private enterprises from the Olympics to major league sports.”

He also cited two recent national surveys conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, a Washington D.C.-based market research firm that showed that 98 percent of horse racing bettors, 96 percent of occasional horse racing fans, 91 percent of animal welfare supporters, and 91 percent of likely voters support national uniform medication rules.

“Bettors, who are the lifeblood of our industry, understand the value of an independent science-based organization to ensure racing integrity,” he said. “By a 15 to 1 margin, bettors say they bet less when they believe there is performance-enhancing drug use, and 77% believe there is.

“The American Jockey Club is committed to medication reform. We welcome your support and we will keep you fully apprised of our progress in the months ahead.”

Stronach echoed the sentiments of other speakers regarding integrity.

“The most important thing in any business is integrity,” he said. “We have to prove to public that racing is stricter run than stock exchange. [At Stronach Group tracks] our top priority is to eliminate any cheating.

“I do agree we need a uniform drug testing program; it's absolutely important. If a horse is sick, it shouldn't run. You shouldn't mask it with medication. And race-day medication should be eliminated starting in 2016.”

Carlos Palermo, president of OSAF [the South American Jockey Club] and Jockey Club Brasileiro, repeated a common thread from Friday's sessions.

“We believe horses should win on their own capabilities, not medication,” he said. “In the long run, this will make for stronger horses. We need to take further steps in this quest.”

Retired racecaller Tom Durkin served as master of ceremonies throughout the programs Thursday and Friday.

Presenting sponsors of the conference included LARC, The Jockey Club (through its commercial subsidiaries and partnerships America's Best Racing, Equibase Company, InCompass Solutions, The Jockey Club Information Systems, and The Jockey Club Technology Services), Totepool, Club Hipico Santiago, Hipodromo Chile, Jockey Club del Peru, Jockey Club Brasiliero, Keeneland Association, Samuel and Guillermo Liberman, Maroñas Entertainment, The New York Racing Association Inc., PMU, Sport Mediastream, The Stronach Group, UTTA (Unión de Trabajadores del Turf y Afines), and Valparaiso Sporting Club.

On-site sponsors of the conference included Amtote International, Breeders' Cup Limited, Daily Racing Form, Encompass Digital Media, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, Horse Races NOW, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, Longitude, Roberts Communications Network, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC, Woodbine Entertainment Group, and Yonkers Raceway.

Exhibitors and lounge sponsors at the conference included CHRIMS Inc., Coolmore America (Ashford Stud), Carrus – The Parimutuel Company, Keeneland Association, LARC Track Maintenance, New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., NTRA Advantage, The Jockey Club, and Sportech PLC.

The Latin American Racing Channel broadcasts the most important horse races from Latin America to the world and offers racetrack maintenance and consulting services to a wide range of industry organizations. Additional information is at larchannel.com.

The Jockey Club, founded in 1894 and dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, is the breed registry for North American Thoroughbreds. In fulfillment of its mission, The Jockey Club, directly or through subsidiaries, provides support and leadership on a wide range of important industry initiatives, and it serves the information and technology needs of owners, breeders, media, fans and farms. Additional information is available at jockeyclub.com.

  • SteveG

    I would love it if we had a sport we could all be proud of, rather than one which is corrupt & literally forces an examination of conscience followed by justifications to oneself to enable continued participation. It’s a sad state of affairs when for many it has come down to that & even sadder that many more have already performed that calculus & split for good.

    • Hamish

      So true.

  • We have arrived at today’s impasse because vets sold us a bill of goods in the 1970s and have pushed the boundaries for the sale of new drugs. We are stuck at today’s crossroads because most of today’s trainers lack the self confidence to train without drugs, something the vast majority of them have never had to do. It is not too late to right the ship. Let’s get behind legislation to do it this year. Let’s not pretend any longer that American racing is superior to the rest of the world. We do have the world’s best equine support staff and veterinary infrastructure and it is high time we took advantage of these resources to regain a spot at the top of the food chain, rather than the rest of the racing world snickering at us behind our backs.

    • SteveG

      I agree it’s not too late. However, as you point out, we didn’t get where we are via the overnight express. This point in time has taken decades to reach & therefore current practices are rather deeply entrenched. And while I hesitate to say it’s the eleventh hour, I do believe a strong sense of urgency needs to be maintained precisely because the status quo is so dug in. Not like pulling one weed in the garden. More like turning over all the soil & no use kidding anyone. That’s hard work. I’m wary of authority myself but I’ve changed my position in regard to racing reform simply because I do not believe the business will ever agree to reform itself in a truly meaningful way. And, in the interest of full disclosure, my interest is as a gambler who has pulled a fair chunk of change off the table. I’d no more keep rolling dice I suspected were loaded or play cards with suspicions of a marked deck than put serious money into a race where I cannot be sure if it’s one of the clean ones or one of the crooked ones. And I know I’m not alone in those thoughts among my gambling peers.

      • Steve, we are on exactly the same page, only I gamble with instead of on horses. But we are singing from the same hymn book. There is a lot going on behind the scene. It’s gonna be quite a roller coaster ride so hang on to your seats.

        • Ben van den Brink

          You sang the same song, last yr. So I like to listen and read.

  • pnoll

    Stronach preaches integrity yet at Gulfstream has regulatory veterinarians that are married to trainers running the track. More than a handful of complaints about horses claimed from one regulatory veterinarians trainer husband that should not have been on the racetrack.
    Of course this could just be sour grapes due to the obvious conflict of interest (integrity issues) however high caliber mix of horseman involved. Curious to hear Mr. Stronach’s outlook on this matter.

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