President's Message - March 28, 2012
Greetings to the members of the WHBPA:
We are about to open our 2012 season at Emerald Downs in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to send out a brief message to everyone.
I apologize for the break in my messages to you; I have been exceptionally busy at work, and have been putting in many long hours dealing with client needs. If anyone has sent me any email that has not been responded to, please do so again – during this period a lot of email seems to have been sent to my “junk” or “spam” folders, and I rarely look in there even when I am not so busy at the office.
First, I would like to remind everyone that we will be having an informal general meeting on Saturday, March 31, at the Quarter Chute Café. We plan to start at 11:30 a.m. We will offer coffee and doughnuts (or something, at least) to help keep you alert and partially fed while we address questions.
If you have any questions that you would like addressed, please send me or our WHBPA office a quick email to let us know what you would like to talk about. We plan on talking about the current status of the Labor and Industries discussions for rate revision, as well as providing some brief reports on the local industry and some national issues.
Second, I wanted to quickly provide a bit of a reaction to some of the harsh press that has come the way of racing of late. I was one of the faithful who watched the HBO show “Luck” and was very disappointed to learn of its being cancelled. I learned that the cancellation came after an uproar was caused by PETA following a third fatality related to horses involved in that series. Like so many things of which we read and “hear,” there apparently was a clear gap between what was being alleged by PETA, and the truth. A link to the Paulick Report discussion of this can be found at: http://www.paulickreport.com/news/ray-s-paddock/the-peta-distortion-how-luck-s-cancellation-was-far-from-ethical
More grim news was found this last week in the New York Times, which kicked off an unflattering series on horse racing with a featured article titled, “Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys.” While almost all of this article focused not on Thoroughbred racing, but on Quarter Horse racing in New Mexico, it still shone a dark light on what it reported, and by implication, the Thoroughbred racing end of it was not exempt. More is expected to follow, and it is unlikely that the reports will remain focused on either New Mexico or Quarter Horse racing. Andy Beyer - in the Daily Racing Form - printed a commentary which soberly assesses the fact that the scrutiny will likely continue, and that “racing” needs to provide a “proper response” to the criticism. If you would like to see that article, its link is: http://www.drf.com/news/beyer-racing-confronts-another-crisis.
My personal concerns with respect to this are many: foremost among them is the fact that, as Mr. Beyer puts it, “racing” needs to respond. In my view, there is no “racing.” Instead, this so-called industry is a collection of self-interests that somehow fit together to perpetuate itself. Breeders, owners, track operators, regulators, self-appointed governance groups, and those to which some elements of supervision have been placed or co-opted (say TOBA and its Graded Stakes Committee, as but one example, or the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium as another) do not have a real way to cooperate and work as one to respond to the criticisms.
I am sure that many of the criticisms are accurate and fair. I am equally sure that many of them are incorrectly assessed and then exaggerated or even false. That does not change the perception: bells rung cannot be un-rung, and that is a problem for all of us.
Here, in Washington, I do believe that we are different, in that we have found ways to respect each other and work together. We have a regulatory body in our Commission that understands what we all go through. We have a track operator in Emerald Downs that is run by people who own and race horses, many of which are bought or bred in this state. We have a breeding industry that has small and large players, all showing guts and determination in tough times. And we have owners and trainers and backside workers who each and every day provide kindness, affection, and love for their horses and take great pride in their achievements and, when the worst occurs, take great sorrow in their injury or loss. I have seen it, and I have felt it.
We have been in difficult times of late due to a faltering economy, causing people to draw back from spending their entertainment dollars over the last few years. That has hurt our track and our industry, but we have persevered. In fact, at Emerald Downs we enter the 2012 season off of some real growth in 2011 over the prior years. We have reason to be optimistic about Emerald Downs’ season this year, despite potential challenges from our neighbors north and south. Those are the economic issues – they seemed to be on the uptick.
Those other factors will have to play out and we will all see how they are portrayed in the media and by each of us. Those portrayals will likely cause various changes that will be faced in attitude, regulation, and the immediate reaction of our fan and customer base to the product we put on. It is my suggestion that you treat all communications with friends, foes, fans, and others in an honest fashion – yes, horse racing has and has always had risks inherent in it – but there are none of us in this game who do not care for and about the magnificent creatures that we breed, raise, break, train, race, and retire. Washington is a remarkable place in many ways – we are below the national average in breakdowns, and we have an exceptionally good record with respect to medication violations (there are very few of them and vast majority involve permitted medications). People here care about each other, and very dearly about the horses that make our industry what it is – remarkable.
We will look forward to seeing you on Saturday, at the Quarter Chute. Let us know what questions you have, and we will do our best to answer them in a way that provides information and understanding of what is involved in addressing those issues.