02/01/2013 5:05PM

Letters to the editor Feb. 1, 2013


Horsemen’s chief should understand confidential stance

The reporting in the Jan. 26 DRF Weekend article “Coming together: National groups press for uniform medications list and rules” was well done. There was, however, one comment by Mr. Phil Hanrahan, the chief executive of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, about the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium’s reluctance to release the results of some studies, a reference to “secret science” that was misleading on Hanrahan’s part.

There is a very good reason the results will not be released to the horsemen’s authority. The horsemen’s group specifically cannot review the information because its scientific adviser, Dr. Tom Tobin, refuses to sign a confidentiality agreement. Mr. Hanrahan was in attendance at the last medication consortium meeting when Dr. Tobin was asked about signing such an agreement. The consortium has entered into confidentiality agreements with a number of other scientific experts and foreign racing authorities – the same agreement was offered to the horsemen’s association’s representative. In general, data like this is not immediately, if ever, public. Moreover, a number of the research studies have not yet been published – but eventually will be (e.g., on the bronchodilator clenbuterol and the anti-inflammatories methylprednisolone, triamcinolone, and betamethasone). If the research has not been published, the researchers won’t give the information out for fear someone will publish it themselves, preventing the original researcher from publishing. I don’t understand the reasoning for not signing. Eventually it will be published.

David L. Switzer, executive director
Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/ Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders

Super-sized outfits hurting the sport

As the racing industry struggles with various issues, the most detrimental trend in the business, the deterioration of competition through the eradication of parity, gets virtually no attention.

First, the Jan. 28 article “NYRA board to shorten race week” recounted a spirited debate between two NYRA board members over the quality of Aqueduct racing. Neither participant seemed to understand why racing in New York, and elsewhere, has deteriorated.

Second, a Jan. 27 letter to the editor questioned the validity and process of voting this year’s Eclipse Award for leading owner. The letter made a case for Midwest Thoroughbreds, a dominant claiming outfit. The author seemed to ignore the fact that while the operation is successful, the races it participates in typically rank as uncompetitive, often creating unbalanced wagering opportunities.

Since the business of racing is driven completely by mutuel handle, maintaining a premier racing product (a competitive field that promotes the highest possible wagering interest) is paramount to its success, yet such entities run operations that systematically deteriorate the competitive balance of racing, destroy parity, and decrease wagering interest.

Racing offices are quick to point to horse population when discussing declining field sizes. The problem may lie not in the number of horses aracing secretary has to draw from, but in how many trainers control those athletes. The advent of the “supertrainer” has been the most damaging consequence of NYRA’s policy to ignore traditional stall limits. No longer faced with the decision to cull their stables, trainers now monopolize talent and creatively keep their stock away from one another through deft navigation of condition books. Where prominent trainers used to manage 50 head, supertrainers have 150-250 athletes. Likewise, operations that monopolize racing stock create an imbalance on the backside, making it difficult for racing secretaries to fill races and for small stables to earn critical purses.

Racing jurisdictions need to understand what other sports already know – a competitive product fuels fan and wagering interest. Other sports develop policies to promote parity and competition. Can you imagine the result of every MLB season if the Yankees could field a roster of 100 players? Start by enforcing stall limits and making trainers submit meet rosters and develop new rules for claiming to ensure the equitable dispersion of racing stock.

Medication, equine safety, and other issues are all noble pursuits that require discussion, but are often over-dramatized by a select few in the industry. The issue of competitive product should be the priority of every racing participant.

Anthony J. Perrotta Jr.
Red Bank, N.J.