Jockey Club's 2017 Round Table Meeting in the Books

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Thoroughbred breeder and owner Barbara Banke, who, along with her late husband, Jess Jackson, has been a longtime advocate for reform in various aspects of the racing and breeding industries, threw her support behind the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 at The Jockey Club’s 65th annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing. The event took place Aug. 13, at the Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Banke is the chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, the nation’s largest seller of premium wines, and owner of Stonestreet, a Thoroughbred breeding and racing operation based in Lexington, Kentucky.

“My family and I are vested, financially and emotionally, in the healthy future of this industry and that is why I support the Horseracing Integrity Act,” she said. “To win in the long term, we must demonstrate to both new and future racing fans that our industry acts with integrity and elevated standards of care to protect the health of our athletes.”

The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 (HR 2651), introduced by Representatives Andy Barr (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY) in May, would require that a uniform, anti-doping and medication control program be developed and enforced by a private nonprofit self-regulatory organization known as the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority. The authority would be governed by a board composed of the chief executive officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), six individuals from the USADA board, and six individuals selected by USADA who have demonstrated expertise in a variety of horse-racing areas.

“The morass of conflicting state medication thresholds and rules is too confusing and slow to change,” Banke added. “With this bill, we can achieve comprehensive reform that is meaningful both to horse owners and the general public. We would benefit significantly and immediately if we standardize best practices across our industry in medication regulation and testing, which the bill would accomplish. This will increase the perception that our industry is organized and responsibly self-governed.

“A centralized and undeviating program with shared standards will afford us economies of scale, efficiencies, branding, and strength when facing common obstacles,” she continued. “USADA has expertise in anti-doping programs, including the Olympics, that we can use. Today, I’d like us all to think seriously about supporting legislation that will build faith among our present patrons and attract future ones.”

In a brief presentation preceding Banke’s remarks, Shawn Smeallie, the executive director of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, discussed the growing support for the HR 2651. He noted that the bill currently has almost 60 co-sponsors, with the total expected to rise above 100 by next month.

He emphasized that HR 2651 will be beneficial to the horse and racing’s stakeholders.

“The Horseracing Integrity Act will ensure the rights of the owners, trainers, bettors, and most importantly, the equine athletes are protected,” Smeallie said. “Independent, uniform anti-doping programs work, and they make the sport they manage stronger.”

As in recent years, the Round Table featured presentations from an international speaker and a speaker representing another professional sport.

Amanda Elliott, the chairman of Australia’s Victoria Racing Club, spoke about the Melbourne Cup and the keys to racing’s success in that nation.

“We all need to have a customer focus to our business,” she said. “We need to redefine the perception of a day at the races and we need to attract the next generation of racegoers. We have to innovate and evolve.”

Rachel Jacobson, the former senior vice president of global partnerships for the National Basketball Association (NBA), discussed the successes of the NBA’s sponsorship deals and recommended ways in which the Thoroughbred industry could follow its lead.

“The business of sports is evolving and things move quickly with technology advancements to bring fans closer to the sport,” she said. “Horse racing has all the right assets to appeal to a much broader fan base.”

Ben Vonwiller, of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, provided an overview of how data can be used to improve coordination of races on a daily basis and on big-event days to avoid conflicting post times, which detract from handle at racetracks and annoy fans interested in betting on both races.

Cathy O’Meara, of the Racing Officials Accreditation Program, and Stacie Clark, of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, gave updates on the work of their organizations and plans for the future.

James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, provided a report on the club’s activities, which included an update on the implementation of mandatory microchipping and plans for the transition to digital foal certificates in 2018. He also announced the Thoroughbred Safety Committee’s three latest recommendations:

  • The first recommendation calls for discontinuing the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 48 hours prior to race day;
  • The second calls for all racetracks to self-publish their Equine Injury Database summaries; and
  • The final recommendation calls for all North American racing associations and regulatory authorities to require the transfer of all veterinary medical records to new ownership.

In closing remarks, Stuart S. Janney III, chairman of The Jockey Club, reiterated the organization’s perspective on federal legislation.

“We at The Jockey Club believe it is appropriate for the federal government to police racing,” he said. “Those who cheat are corrupting the interstate wagering system—the very definition of federal responsibility and a system made possible by the federal Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. … [This legislation] wouldn’t address all of our sport’s issues, but it would be a great start and meaningful foundation for growth. I hope you will all join with The Jockey Club to work toward that day.”

The conference was attended by approximately 400 people and was live-streamed on The Jockey Club’s website. For the first time, the conference was also shown on TVG2 and tvg.com/live.

A video replay of the entire two-hour conference is available on jockeyclub.com and full transcripts will be available by Monday afternoon on the same site.

The Jockey Club Round Table Conference was first held on July 1, 1953, in The Jockey Club office in New York City. The following year, it was moved to Saratoga Springs, where it has been held every August since.

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