President's Message - May 11
Greetings to the members of the WHBPA:
The Kentucky Derby is behind us, and barring a shocking outcome over the next two Triple Crown races, it does not look like we are going to have a Superhorse upon which we can saddle up and ride to riveted national attention for our industry. So, as usual, it is up to each of us, “in the trenches,” to put on the best show we can locally and to promote our game as best we can to family, friends, media, and those who come every race day to see our product and play our game.
Take that seriously, as we all need to be welcoming to those who come to Emerald Downs, and encouraging to those who don’t.
This message is intended to deliver a couple of updates. First, the Washington State Racing Commission did pass a rule change to allow trainers to be allowed to be here on a temporary basis through the year. They will have to pay for the full cost of a license for a year, but they will be able to obtain 30 days of Labor and Industries coverage for 1/3 of the annual cost, and can then extend that, if they like, to stay another month (for another 1/3 payment) and can then stay another month or more, by paying the final 1/3 of the annual Labor and Industries coverage rates. (Once three payments of 1/3 are made, the person has paid for an entire year, so they are allowed to remain in the state throughout the season with coverage for their employees). We are working with the folks at Labor and Industries to see if we can lower the rate for one month, but at “press time” we believe it will likely be the 1/3 of the annual rate for one month’s coverage. Hopefully, this will encourage some of the Portland, or Arizona, or northern California trainers to bring some horses north to Emerald Downs for some part of our season.
I have thanked the Commission and its staff for their help in getting this passed. They acted promptly and very helpfully. Labor and Industries has moved a little slower, but they are very careful with the pool and the risk ratings, so we do understand their pace is not going to be in keeping with that of our Commission or our desires.
Second, I wanted to report that we had received a request from a number of our members to ask Emerald Downs to not require a second break, and to allow training to continue unabated until the end, particularly in this wetter season, when water does not seemingly need to be placed on the track with great frequency, thanks to Mother Nature doing plenty of that for us. This was thought by a number of folks to be more convenient for them, and might allow them to end their day at the track earlier than was occurring. The track considered our request, but felt strongly that they wanted to err, if at all, on the side of potential safety for the horses and the riders. It is their judgment that the second closure remains necessary to allow them to smooth out the track and reduce the risks that are caused by the training activity. While there may be a convenience factor that we are not getting, we can all agree on the need for protecting our horses and our exercise riders.
We held an informational general meeting on April 15, at the Racing Office, to bring folks up to speed on the issues involving the temporary license; the need to act as good and thoughtful citizens on the backside – respecting the cost of the utilities that are incurred by Emerald Downs to support our folks back there and limiting waste and abuse of those resources; some of the national issues that are “in the news” at present; and a few questions and answers. I appreciate that on short notice we were able to get 40 or so folks out there to listen to us.
As far as the current status of items “in the news” there are a few items of national importance that are going on which we are monitoring as your National HBPA. Foremost among those are the calls for elimination of race day medications (lasix is the only race day medication, so that is the one they are targeting) in North America within five years. Various entities, such as the Association of Racing Commissioners International, which started the furor, and The Jockey Club have endorsed this position. The National HBPA wrote a very impactful piece indicating that our trainers are rarely found in violation of any medication issues, and that the discussion on elimination of race day medication should be based on science, and not on a “feel good” public relations-based attempt to pander to America.
As a result, we have succeeded in slowing the pace of this discussion, and the NTRA, along with others, will be sponsoring an international symposium on the subject, with the intention of getting the science to be discussed, rather than simply that which sounds good.
After being a “water, oats, and hay” person for years, I personally believe that lasix has been scientifically proven to be effective in keeping horses running that otherwise would be lost to Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage, and I believe that for the good of the game – to keep the numbers of runners as high as possible - and for the financial best interests of those who invest in the game, we need to have the ability to keep our horses running and not taken from the game due to EIPH.
Further along this line, there are two Congressmen who have recently introduced a bill that would seek to change the Interstate Horseracing Act, to require the elimination of race day medication from horses being used for simulcasting across state lines. This type of knee-jerk reaction from these folks is not something that will be tolerable to the economics of horseracing. We are looking at this nationally, but we may need to ask for your support in later weeks in addressing this with your own members of Congress.
That is it for now.
Thanks for reading and supporting racing in Washington.