The sport which brings us together is at a turning point. We have been divided for far too long on a variety of issues that impact our business. Most notably, the “Lasix debate” has been a debilitating one, inhibiting our collective ability to move ahead. The time has come for the industry to compromise – working together with all major constituencies to establish a mutually-agreed, new way forward.
The recent announcement from a coalition of racetracks to introduce changes to their house Lasix policies was met with a series of statements from certain stakeholder groups restating their long-held positions. Compromise is essential. Absent a compromise, binding mediation should be considered.
“In my many years in this great sport, I have never seen racing more at risk than it is right now,” says B. Wayne Hughes, owner of Spendthrift Farm. “We have far too much at stake to continue being tied down in separate bunkers and not finding a way forward. The time for a compromise is now.”
As major stakeholders, we believe the only way to grow revenue for the industry's obligations – among them, aftercare and backstretch programs, equine research, jockey insurance and prize money – is through the growth of the sport's overall “pie.” If our industry can collectively agree to compromise, we can finally move ahead together and address other meaningful issues that have inhibited growth in the sport for far too long.
While racing has some long-standing traditions which have shaped our collective experience, nothing is set in stone. Let's embrace that freedom to redefine the future.
Our sport has recently been challenged in a manner that requires bold, serious and innovative action. But the longer-term reality should not be ignored, either. Foal crops are at 50-year lows. Handle is down close to 50%, adjusted for inflation, over just 15 years. Though tougher to measure, the social license racing enjoys is also questioned now more than at any point in recorded history. We must adapt to this, better exhibiting to the world – not just ourselves – the outstanding care our horses receive, and their majestic, innate desire to compete.
We must unite and emerge stronger – for the horses, for our passion, for the future.
Since our organization's launch last summer, we've presented four substantive white papers tackling topics related to improving our sport's approach to pricing, transparency, product development and access to information. Now is the time to present a fresh approach to racing. We have enlisted five industry leaders to present their take on improving different segments of racing through new approaches to long-stagnant “offices.” Their ideas will be released over the next two days.
– Wagering and Innovation: Marshall Gramm (chair of Rhodes College economics department, co-founder of Ten Strike Racing)
– Racing Administration and Planning: Rick Hammerle (long-time racing official, including 20 years at Santa Anita as racing secretary and vice president of racing).
– Integrity and Welfare: Maggi Moss (attorney, major horse owner, leading aftercare advocate)
– Communications and Marketing: John Sikura (president of Hill 'n' Dale Farm)
– Owners' Services and Recruitment: Brad Weisbord (founder of BSW Bloodstock, ELiTE Sales)
Presented with an opportunity to re-shape our industry and mindful of our precarious position, these suggestions should be met with open minds. Our interest in a healthy thoroughbred industry is shared. The process to achieve these much-needed improvements remains rooted in compromise, with all stakeholders understanding that once-entrenched opinions must be loosened in order to establish a modern sport.
In the recently-published words of billionaire investor and philanthropist Ray Dalio, “collective decision making works much better than fragmented individual decision making so I urge you to understand it and employ it. If you don't, you will be left behind.” Our future, as projected by five industry leaders, could be so much brighter than our past if we can collectively move beyond that which has divided us for so long and work together. Join us in this quest!
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