The change bandwagon is getting pretty crowded, both in presidential politics and in horseracing. Following on the heels of suggestions for reform at the Jockey Club Round Table in August and demands for reform by the Breeders’ Cup and American Graded Stakes Committee, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association is getting into the act. NTRA president and CEO Alex Waldrop is convening a closed-door meeting in Lexington, Ky., today beginning at 9 a.m. to seek support and funding for widespread changes related to medication and horse welfare issues, many of which were detailed in a Paulick Report exclusive in July.
Today’s invitation-only meeting at the Griffin Gate Marriott Hotel, will have representation from a broad base throughout the Thoroughbred industry, unlike an earlier small gathering of insiders who met at Keeneland to draft a discussion document in reaction to the June 19 Congressional hearings that threatened federal intervention. The hearings came in the wake of revelations about legal anabolic steroid use and the death of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby.
The discussion document outlined reforms related to medication, drug testing, racetrack safety standards, jockey weights and insurance, 2-year-old sales and racing, wagering protocols, Eclipse Awards, and a national placement program for retired racehorses. The confidential document, which has since been amended since published in the Paulick Report, also had suggestions for implementation and enforcement, but no plan for funding, which is expected to be a major topic of discussion.
One invited participant said it would be a “miracle” if the industry supports the proposals but gives Waldrop high marks for his efforts. “Where is the money going to come from?” he asked. “The NTRA doesn’t have it, racetracks are strapped, and state governments are cutting budgets on racing commissions and drug testing labs.” Another said the plan needs to be scaled down and more realistic. “The Jockey Club Round Table made all these proposals about what the industry needs to do, and I said, ‘Hey, what about the proposals you made last year? When are you going to get around to addressing those?’”