President's Message - March 25, 2014
Greetings to the members of the WHBPA.
18 days to go!
With just over seven weeks of training completed, the number of horses working out seems to be growing daily. I have had the pleasure of coming down to the track on several occasions so far this season, and I am always happy to see the sights of returning horses and those who groom, train, and own them. A palpable excitement could be felt in the Quarter Chute Café on Sunday morning, with every table filled, and all heads turning toward the parade of horses that kept moving toward and from the track gates.
Our board met today to discuss a number of topics, with an intention to make sure that everyone is up to speed on issues surrounding the coming season at Emerald Downs, as well as some of the broader issues affecting racing. Locally, we are expecting to see most of our trainers return, with some new faces coming south from Canada and coming north from Turf Paradise, Golden Gate Fields, and Portland Meadows. Please join us in welcoming the newcomers to our facilities.
We decided that we would not try to hold a pre-season informational meeting for our membership, as there are not many changes from the prior year to report, and all board member reports indicated that other than the usual questions regarding the condition book and other sundry items, things are fairly calm and peaceful at the track. Instead, if you have issues that you would like to have us address, or questions that you would like answered, please feel encouraged to send our Executive Director, Maryann O'Connell, your questions. She will handle them or forward them to me or other board members for responses.
In our industry, it seems that, for many reasons, "it is never easy." The most recent challenge to each of us came from the recent New York Times report which published allegations from PETA involving Steve Asmussen and his number one assistant, Scott Blasi. Their report, together with a video of more than nine minutes in length, made Blasi out to be a foul-mouthed lout, who did not hold horse, human, or regulator in too high of a regard. While much of the edited tape made Blasi appear to those outside of our industry as being involved in various nefarious acts, including indifference to the condition of his horses, those who know racing could see that many of Blasi's comments, while course and idiotic, were not as improper as is understood by those who do not know what was actually going on.
Our board discussed whether or not we should create a local response to this issue. General consensus, I believe, is that we could spend so much time explaining the facts or interpreting what was recorded often without the context of the questions leading to the response but that it would appear that by simply explaining we were either condoning a poor excuse for a human or were trying to make light of what could be perceived by others. We do not believe that either approach is appropriate at this time.
What we do believe is that this should serve as a reminder for us to be very vigilant about how we conduct ourselves, our choices of language, and how comments can be taken literally or are otherwise characterized and could be misunderstood by many. So please, when you are in public, take the time to think about what you are saying when you say it, and keep in mind that you had better know your audience if you are being "colorful" in any way.
Additionally, one of our board members pointed out that if you are asked about this by someone seeking an explanation, a very good analogy is to point out regardless of how the story sounds or is taken assume the worst and that are characterizations of Blasi and his attitudes are 100% correct - that no one would ever support child abuse either. And because there are parents a very small percentage of parents who do abuse their children, that does not lead to a conclusion that no one should be allowed to have children. Just as the vast preponderance of parents provide love and nurture to their children, so too do we believe that the vast preponderance of horse owners, trainers, and grooms also love and nurture the horses in their care.
In all matters that relate to our sport, most of us would happily toss to the hangman those persons who demean racing, cheat in the sport, abuse any animal, or reflect poorly on the strong majority of people who give of their daily lives to support these magnificent animals. There are far too many who play by the rules, love their animals, treat them lovingly and provide the best of care to be undone by cheating and unethical behavior.
With that discussion almost behind us, keep positive about our sport in your interactions with others. For every high-profile negative story, there are thousands of unsung positives. Let's sing a few of those when we are given the opportunity to let people know what is best in our sport, and how these beautiful horses receive love from the moment they start life forward.
Moving on, the meet is now upon us. Best of luck and success to all.