08/13/2014 9:24AM

Fornatale: Wagner gives horseplayers a voice on NTRA board

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Judy Wagner is making history – again. In 2001, Wagner became the first woman to win the National Handicapping Championship. Last week, it was announced that Wagner will become the first horseplayer to be appointed to a broad-based Thoroughbred racing organization when she joined the board of directors at the NTRA.

Wagner credits Mike Mayo, chairman of the NTRA Players’ Committee, with making her appointment a reality. “For a long time, he’s felt strongly that the players are the ones – with our wagering dollars – who fuel the entire industry,” Wagner said. “Mike’s said on many occasions, and I agree with him, that the players should have a seat at the table.”

Back in June, Mayo reached out to Wagner and told her to expect a phone call. NTRA senior vice president Keith Chamblin contacted Wagner and asked her if she’d be willing to serve.

Wagner has been impressed with the direction the NTRA has taken recently. “Earlier this year, the NTRA and DRF did a great job allowing players an easy avenue to sign on to the petition about changing the tax law,” she said. “The Treasury should be looking at the whole bet, not just the single denomination that hits for big money. And it’s a step forward that they’ve agreed to look at this. This could be a terrific win for the horseplayer.”

Overall, she sees the NHC Tour membership increase as a good sign as well. “Our industry needs to really target and attract a more diverse crowd,” she said. “It can only be a good thing that NHC membership has increased so dramatically this year. Since the first of the year, there have been two prize-pool increases announced already, and there’s even a chance we’ll see another. Hopefully, this is one step of many where the NTRA will go about recognizing the player in a more visible way.”

Wagner, a member of the Louisiana Racing Commission since 2007, has a few issues at the forefront of her mind as she prepares to join the board – equine safety chief among them. “I am in favor of stricter rules, tightening up medication rules, more vet inspections,” she said. “Being a regulator in another part of my life, I have seen how important it is for tracks to support the safety of the horses. It’s better for the equine athletes, and it’s better for the human athletes who ride them.”

She is also a strong supporter of across-the-board takeout reductions and an increase in wagering integrity. “I want horseplayers to feel that they are being treated fairly in all ways,” Wagner said. “I’m not an expert on the technology side, but I know it’s not a good thing for the game when all this money gets bet late and a horse goes from 3-1 in the gate to 3-2 on the backside. That’s a cause of concern for the players. Whatever needs to be done to restore a sense of fairness is important to me.”

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Joining the board wasn’t an easy decision for Wagner – she and her husband, 2009 NHC Tour champ Bryan Wagner, are both ineligible to play in the NHC while she is serving.

“That part was a bummer,” she said. “Bryan and I love NHC. We work to get there every year, and when we do, it’s like a reunion of old friends. It’s a great feeling to walk into a room and know right away that ‘horse racing is spoken here.’ ”

But Wagner put her personal interests aside in favor of the game she loves. “I knew I had something to offer the board, and I felt a sense of responsibility,” she said. “With my background, I felt like I had a good chance of getting appointed. And I’m the biggest cheerleader for the player, and I always will be.”

BeychokRacing More than 1 year ago
This is great step forward in the right direction for a change. Kudos to the NTRA for making a great choice. Let's hope she is not the last horseplayer to get a seat at the table.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Tx for commenting, Mike! I have a feeling Judy will pave the way for other horseplayers to contribute to the NTRA as well.
mikey More than 1 year ago
She is the First Lady of handicapping.Maybe she can shake up the good old boys club.She bleeds horse racing and loves the game.Best thing that happened in a long time.
Stephen Ramsey More than 1 year ago
that us a joke that judy wagner is concerned about horse safety !!!! The louisiana racing commission on which she serves had karl broberg one of the industries worst offenders dead in there sights. Broberg had a hand full of bad test for dermorphin (10 times stronger than morphine) and he walked. tired of these people in racing saying they are worried about horse safety and when a trainer has a bad test and goes and gets a lawyer the racing commissions run and hide. judy wagner is a joke saying she is worried about the horses. Also how does louisiana let one of the biggest gamblers in the business on the racing commission?
Nathan More than 1 year ago
she's a token female. no respect from the establishment. she should resign before she has breakdown from trying to talk sense to these political hacks. they know nothing of the horseplayer. it's the aqu kaching that makes them happy. bonuses and all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Judy Wagner is right. What is unspoken often by the " horse racing elite", yet known by all regular horse players is watching your horse break cleanly on top and go from 3/1 to 9/5 during the running of a race. Also, how many of us notice that when we ever bet a horse that may be 3/1 that stumble at the break or breaks very poorly they ALWAYS go up in odds during the running of the race. All I can say is it is a fact that back in the early 80's after the bell rang and the race took off the old time tellers had about 20 seconds to cancel a ticket that they may have mis punched out As you can imagine the quarter horse racing in Arizona had some odd changes after the race took off. It is a fact that odds do change during the running of the races. I've heard all the " reasons" they give that this happens due to money coming in electronically and such. However, it is ridiculous that when they get a lone lead and break well they go down in odds at an amazing rate. Something has to be done. I think the racing industry didn't give it enough time when they tried closing the pool before horses entered the gate. It's true none of us are used to that..but, if they stuck with that in about 2 years it would be the normal. I, for one, would think it was fair if my odds didn't change after the break. This I know.... if my speed horse breaks well and gets a lone easy pace lead that horse NEVER goes up in odds and always goes down. Good luck Judy, I think you will represent us players well.
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Anonymous: Please go away. Rushbo is waiting for your next conspiracy conference call.
Juan DE La Cruz More than 1 year ago
All players in the track have noticed that too! It is not a good sign for the industry and hope that they can really fix that.