Now More Than EverWritten by Jon Stettin
For about four years I have been writing about and calling for the industry’s need for two things: a central governing body, and some sort of commissioner. It’s funny that when I first started campaigning for this it was met with a lot of skepticism and even some laughter and ridicule. Since then many have jumped on the bandwagon and are calling for the same.
In a recent conversation I had with trainer Bob Baffert, he expressed to me he has long been in favor of a commissioner type of scenario for our sport. As most of you are aware, he is often cast into an ambassador type of role along with other key participants of the game as we really have nobody designated to be out there front and center.
With a centralized governing body would come a standard set of rules for all tracks. This would be medication rules and racing rules. Hopefully applies equally and fairly. We’d also presumably have some accountability.
With a commissioner, we’d have a spokesperson who would be charged with not only answering inquiries about misfortunes which occur but improving awareness, and both growing and restoring the Sport of Kings in this evolved and different works we now live and play in.
It will be difficult to achieve the above, but the time is right, and it is likely essential for long term prosperous survival of the sport we love. The difficulty will arise from the industry’s inability to agree on much and the long-standing attitude of every man and entity for themselves.
Those who supply information want to keep control of that and not share it without charge.
The tracks can’t even stagger post times.
The reporters and publications can’t say anything they wish due to fear of boycotts in advertising, credentials, access, and sponsors.
Bettors are taken for granted and even outright shunned despite their being the customer and fueling the game.
Our best defense to atrocities that occur is not to acknowledge some reform is immediately imperative but instead to shoot the messenger and point out how lousy an organization PETA is. They may be, but that does not prevent them from occasionally being on the right side of an argument, nor does the fact they happen to have an agenda. An equally inept defense is that many of us love our horses and treat them well. That is true but you are only as strong as your weakest link. We have too many weak links, and we are giving too much ammunition to our game's enemies. Long term that will not play out well. We need to get in front of that as an industry and not play Nero. “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.”
Our weak links lie in drugs, legal and otherwise, testing, enforcement, slaughter, aftercare, cruelty, rules, stewardship, and of course safety. Yes, we are making progress. Yes, there are improvements but perception is everything and without an organized educational program, much of it goes unnoticed by our foes.
We have park benches advertising to squash our sport outside the venue of one of our biggest events. We have a state governor calling for the abolishment of racing. We have a website pointing out fatalities and we now have the mainstream media coverage back that we lost for a while. If something bad happens they are all over it. I have seen zero about the Breeders’ Cup or the incredible grand competition and show we are about to witness in two weeks.
While we are making improvements, we can do better. Most if not all our issues can be solved. We need a bit less greed, a bit less reluctance to share some control, some cooperation, and a governing body and commissioner.
I have lobbied for a governing body, and an elected commissioner for a long time. I think it is needed now more than ever. If we wait much longer we might just need a trustee. A bankruptcy trustee. Remember, we have to save ourselves while there is something to save.