07/13/2015 10:55PM

Harness: Industry leaders discuss a myriad of ideas at USTA Summit


On Monday (July 13), 40 key industry stakeholders met in Columbus, Ohio, to exchange dozens of ideas on how to address the problem of declining foal crops and the challenge of attracting new owners to harness racing at a summit organized by the U.S. Trotting Association.

Many of the participants commented throughout the day on the value of the gathering and the need to leave the meeting with an action plan and agenda.

“It went well and there were a lot of interesting ideas discussed,” said USTA President Phil Langley. “Obviously, we had a group that wanted to work together to get things done. Now we have to find out what we can do to execute what everyone agreed on.”

A number of the participants emphasized the need for owners, breeders, horsemen and racetracks to work together on these important initiatives and the importance of making the racetrack experience a good one to attract potential new owners.

A major initiative that was unanimously agreed upon was the reallocation of purses to increase money for maiden and non-winners races. Tom Luchento (SBOA of NJ), Myron Bell (Brittany Farms) and Tom Grossman (Blue Chip Farms), as well as USTA directors Nick Salvi and Jim Reynolds, all spoke on the need to create better economic opportunities for owners of younger horses.

Other owner-related topics agreed to pursue are: cooperation from the tracks and horsemen to work together and with the USTA to better educate the public on benefits of horse ownership through new owners’ seminars; working to improve web presence of horse ownership information; utilizing racetrack and racino contact lists to distribute horse ownership information to potential new owners; development and distribution of videos highlighting the excitement of horse ownership; as well as providing additional free ownership benefits including automatic notification of horses entered, free program pages for races entered from TrackMaster and free replays of those races.

In addition, Myron Bell from Brittany Farms explained his Grand Slams of trotting and pacing concept. Both series, one for each gait, would involve seven or eight major races to include bonuses for the winning horses with an additional bonus for a sweep.

At the conclusion of the all-day summit, USTA Chairman of the Board Ivan Axelrod informed the participants that the USTA would be sending each of them a summary of the meeting next week, so that an action plan could be developed.

Following were the attendees at the USTA Summit:

Myron Bell – Brittany Farms
Bob Boni – Northwood Bloodstock Agency
Murray Brown – Hanover Shoe Farms
Bob Carson – Writer
Tom Charters – Hambletonian Society
Eric Cherry – Owner
Mike Freibert – Bluegrass Staking
Teena Freibert – Bluegrass Staking
John Gallinger – Standardbred Canada
Kevin Greenfield – Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association
Tom Grossman – Blue Chip Farms
Ellen Harvey – Harness Racing Communications
Rob Key – Converseon social media agency
Milt Leeman – Owner
Mark Loewe – Penn National Gaming
Tom Luchento – Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of N.J.
Joe McLead – Sugar Valley Farm
Dot Morgan – New Vocations
Virgil Morgan Jr. -- Trainer
David Reid – Preferred Equine Marketing
Robert Schmitz – Ohio State Racing Commission 
David Siegel – TrackMaster
Steve Stewart – Hunterton Farm & Sales Agency
Ann Straatman – Seelster Farms
Janet Terhune – Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame
Joe Thomson – Winbak Farm

(USTA Release)