02/29/2016 2:54PM

Giwner: USTA Directors vote to extend Social Media initiative

The Harness Racing Fan Zone will live on for at least one more year.

The votes everyone has been waiting for came up Monday morning at the United States Trotting Association’s Board of Directors meeting. Would the organization continue to support its Social Media efforts with the firm Converseon and would it set aside funds to support potential national broadcasts of major events?

In the end, both items passed in a landslide, with the social media portion winning by a 31-4 margin and the television issue resulting in a 39-3 final tally. The social media budget was set at $250,000 while television was allotted $120,000 with a $37,500 limit per event.

While the votes were anything but close, the issue brought about a fair amount of discussion and controversy.

USTA Director John Brennan (District 12) asked that the voting be completed via secret ballots because he felt there was some bullying going in the room. That motion was defeated after a vote.

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Many people questioned the lack of metrics delivered by Converseon over the two years that it has handled the social media initiative under the leadership of Rob Key. Both Gabe Wand (District 4) and Brennan cited the lack of concrete numbers.

“We spent over a half-million dollars,” said Brennan. “I don’t think that we are in a position to be spending this money.”

Wand also brought up a budget he was shown by Key showing $1 million in spending for 2016, a total well above the $250,000 approved on Monday. USTA Communications Director Dan Leary was quick to point out that there was a $250,000 and a “wish list” budget if the initiative could receive additional funds from tracks and horsemen groups.

One of the more vocal people in the room was Meadowlands General Manager and CEO Jason Settlemoir. He spoke from the heart about the importance of the issues.

“You are about to vote on two important issues. This is about my future, your future and everybody’s future in harness racing,” said Settlemoir.

Even Settlemoir, who clearly supported both measures, admitted that perhaps the social media campaign hadn’t been “perfect” and that was a general consensus that more oversight was needed.

“We need to approve it for this next session and give him (Rob Key) more direction,” said USTA President Phil Langley, who planned on forming a committee with names like Allison Conte, Emily Gaskin, Tony Alagna, Nick Salvi, Gabe Wand and others to oversee the project.

Chairman of the Board Ivan Axelrod was clear that he would sit down with Key and make it clear that he needed deliverables between “now and December 31”.

Before the meeting concluded, Settlemoir made a plea to those in the room to work together in managing the continuing horse shortage situation in the Northeast. He pointed out that the entry box at the Meadowlands was down 20% that morning due to the opening of Saratoga Raceway and it would only get worse. He asked if Langley would form a committee to discuss racing dates for tracks in the Northeast.

Langley agreed to form the committee but felt the issue was complicated. “Is it the USTA’s goal to have as many people involved as possible or to have some tracks stronger,” mulled Langley?

Rules changes

Three rule changes which could affect handicapping to some degree were also announced.

1.       County fair tracks are now required to supply the same charting information as pari-mutuel tracks.

2.       If a recall occurs in a race the Past Performance lines must indicate the incident. How this would be done was left for future discussion.

3.       The amount of time a horse may be absent from racing without qualifying has been extended from 30 days to 60 days.


Randy McCown More than 1 year ago
This is outstanding great effort by the horsemen but there still a few things that have been wrong for years that need our attention. Dignity after Racing has started a grass root effort to address our dirty lil secret standardbred race horse Retirement. For the last week D.A.R. has been posting on Facebook a call for all horsemen to support a ten dollar starting fee to help support retirement farms state by state to be run by horsemen in there respected States & during this racing season they will be circulating petitions to collect signatures from horsemen & fans supporting this effort when we have collected enough signature we will present this to each respected states racing boards & tracks it will be hard to turn down if the majority of horsemen want this.heres the problem now we all love our horses & while in training & racing theses horses get the best of care & know love from there connection but when there racing carriers are over the nightmare begins. It takes around 200 dollars a month to care for a non productive horse hay feed bedding farriers & labor this doesn't include vets take a mom & pop operation they would go bankrupt trying to care for every horse that passes thru there hands even the large operations can not afford this. The horses journey after Racing breaks down like this a lucky few will find forever homes from there connections the very best race horses will make it to breeding farms the majority will start the nightmare journey down the live stock sales better know as the dead stock sale a few will be saved by ligit rescues a few more will be taken by fake rescues wich is a whole other nightmare for theses horses to me & many others this is unacceptable. With out industry wide funding this is a losing battle but with a ten dollar starting fee something good can be done each state can fund race horse Retirement farms with the long term goals of buying retirement farms & having retired horsemen run them this isn't hard to do. Two years ago D.A.R. tryed to get this thru a few NY race tracks by themselves after much consideration we were turned down by the tracks with the reason being it would be to hard to change the computers to take out the ten dollar starting fee but a few years back they had no problem installing a ten dollar starting fee for drug testing.this proposal ask nothing from the tracks except collecting the starting fee this whole program will be run by the horsemen for our horses with a four member horsemen board in each respected state to decide the best way to fund there own state race horse Retirement farms pls our horses are counting on evey horsemen literally for there lives thanks Randy McCown founding member of D.A.R. PS we can be found on face book groups
Randy McCown More than 1 year ago
P.S this would also go a very long way in showing we are responsible to our industry & our horses it will also attrack new fans & more important new owners no longer will we have to carry around this black eye on our sport
Steven Serra More than 1 year ago
in the end ( it will work out)