The 67 Annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing concluded Sunday with a focus on the importance of the Thoroughbred industry uniting on matters from drug policies to interference rules if stakeholders wish for it to be successful.
James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, hosted a Q-and-A session with John Messara, the owner and chairman of Arrowfield Stud in New South Wales, Australia, who spoke of the positive impact that uniform drug policies in the United States would have on the Thoroughbred industry.
“I think that having a national drug policy would unleash an economic monster in America,” said Messara. “It is difficult for us in Australia to judge if we should buy a mare or stallion from the U.S. because we do not know if it received medication. Rather than get bitten by it, we stay away.
“I would appeal to American horsemen to join together. The [Horseracing Integrity Act] would be a great base for the future if you can get it through. It will create a level playing field and make the sport more international.”
Kim Kelly, the chief stipendiary steward of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, educated the audience on stewarding practices in Hong Kong and the benefits of the category 1 interference rule. In Hong Kong, almost all matters, from potential interference and riding tactics to horses over- or underperforming, are addressed on race day, and jockeys are called into the Inquiry Room before a stewards panel immediately following the race in question.
Regarding category 1 rules, Kelly noted that all major racing jurisdictions except for the United States, Canada, and Turkey operate under category 1. Kelly stated in favor of category 1 that this rule rewards the best horse in a race and provides more consistent outcomes without compromising safety.
“It is my respectful opinion that category 2 yields inconsistent and undesirable outcomes,” said Kelly. “Whilst category 1 may not be perfect, one interference rule is significantly less imperfect than the other.”
Kelly emphasized that regardless of which interference rules are used, it is vital that racing regulators and stewards are transparent in how they determine rulings and share their explanations with the public.
“So long as decisions are properly considered with all of the relevant factors and competing arguments being taken into account, then those decisions will always be able to be supported. Transparency is king. Confidence in the regulation of racing is paramount. Confidence lost, everything lost.”
David Fuscus, the president and chief executive officer of Xenophon Strategies, compared how Equifax and Capital One responded to recent crises, what they did well in their actions, where they failed, and how these events compare to horse racing’s current public relations crisis following the large number of fatalities at Santa Anita Park this year. He noted that the key principles of effective crisis communications strategies are engagement, transparency, responsibility and meaningful action.
“Define rather than be defined, exhibit fast self-disclosure, respond directly to customers, and undertake public-facing actions to ensure it never happens again,” said Fuscus.
William M. Lear Jr., vice chairman of The Jockey Club, described why passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act is in the best interests of the horse racing industry and announced that the bill has 137 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. The Horseracing Integrity Act would create a private, independent horse racing anti-doping authority responsible for developing and administering a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program.
“This legislation is founded upon the unremarkable proposition that the regulatory authority should not be controlled by those being regulated, but instead by independent persons with deep knowledge of and experience in the sport but with no conflicts of interest and nothing to gain or lose personally, including financially, as a result of the regulations adopted,” said Lear.
Mike Mulvihill, the executive vice president of research, league operations & strategy for FOX Sports, talked about television trends, how FOX is adapting to sports betting, and its commitment to horse racing on television. In 2019, FOX is airing 400 hours of live racing content in partnership with the New York Racing Association. He pointed out that since FOX Sports launched its Saratoga Live Shows in 2016, average daily off-track handle during the Saratoga meet has grown by more than $2 million a day, and handle across all advance-deposit wagering platforms has grown by 59%.
Bill Knauf, the vice president of business operations for Monmouth Park, described how the track has reacted to the legalization of sports betting to increase revenue. For example, the track’s sports book has experimented with offering parlays with stakes races and baseball games as well as prop wagers that cross over between horse racing and other sports. He noted that sports betting attracts a more diverse, younger audience that is used to fixed-odds and knowing how much money will be won when a wager is placed.
Valerie Pringle, the campaign manager for equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, spoke of how her organization works to improve equine welfare through support of legislation including the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, which would ban the slaughter of horses in America for human consumption and ban their export for slaughter, and the Horseracing Integrity Act.
Dr. Nancy Cox, the dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment for the University of Kentucky, detailed the university’s efforts into working with the Thoroughbred industry to improve track surfaces. Plans call for the University of Kentucky to invest in enhanced technical support, an endowed professorship dedicated to racing safety, and research into technologies to better maintain track surfaces.
Stuart S. Janney III, who serves as chairman of The Jockey Club and presided over the conference, announced following Cox’s presentation that The Jockey Club’s board of stewards voted yesterday to support certain capital improvements to the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, including a provision of new software for its database management and field equipment to increase its fleet to more adequately cover the country.
Janney’s remarks included the latest recommendations from the Thoroughbred Safety Committee, which call for a centralized electronic storage of all veterinary treatment records and elimination of the use of the riding crop for encouragement, including new penalty guidelines for breach of the rule.
Janney also announced the addition of four individuals to the Thoroughbred Safety Committee: Dr. Rick Arthur, Jim Lawson, Tom Robbins, and D.G. Van Clief Jr.
Laura Barillaro, executive vice president and chief financial officer of The Jockey Club, delivered the activities of The Jockey Club report, which summarized the organization’s progress thus far in addressing McKinsey & Company’s recommendations that were announced at last year’s Round Table Conference.
The conference was live streamed on The Jockey Club’s website. It was also shown on TVG2 and tvg.com.
A video replay of the conference is available on jockeyclub.com, and full transcripts will be available on the same site this week.
The Jockey Club Round Table Conference was first held on July 1, 1953, in The Jockey Club office in New York City. The following year, it was moved to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where it has been held every August since.
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. It founded America’s Best Racing (americasbestracing.net), the broad-based fan development initiative for Thoroughbred racing, and in partnership with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, operates OwnerView (ownerview.com), the ownership resource. Additional information is available at jockeyclub.com.