President's Message - July 3, 2012
Greetings to the members of the WHBPA:
I wish you a very happy 4th of July, and hope that we are all about to enjoy our long-awaited summer… what a spring and early summer! Whether the so-called experts are correct about the causes of global warming or not, there seems to be no denying the fact that our now usual weather patterns have changed from what we generally expect.
MaryAnn O’Connell and I (as well as my wife, Debbie) just returned from attending the National HBPA Summer Meeting, which was held from June 29 – July 1 at Prairie Meadows, in Altoona, Iowa. (They are complaining about the weather there too - heat and humidity much too early for their tastes).
As part of that meeting, various of the usual business was conducted, to include numerous committee meetings (the National HBPA has committees for audit; benefit providers; budget, dues, and investment; by-laws; education; Horsemen’s Journal; industry awards; legislative affairs; medication; model rules; national assistance; national insurance; nominating; personnel; planning; Thoroughbred aftercare; wagering and alternative gaming; and an executive committee). I am always astounded to find out how many committees they have me sitting on (six) - and MaryAnn is just as tied up, sitting on five other committees and joining me on the sixth.
I have a few things to report to you as far as both what goes on at the National HBPA, as well as what is going on there right now as well. In the first place, the National HBPA is sort of the collective brain trust of those who care about the needs of the horsemen (because our association is made up of horsemen, of course) in many areas that affect us day to day. In addition to the benevolence aspects of the “horsemen helping horsemen” view, the National HBPA also has retained a lobbyist firm to monitor and address recent government initiatives and requests by competing gaming interests that might be detrimental to our interests (the National HBPA has withdrawn from the NTRA based on exorbitant dues demands and differing views on key matters, and thus needed to ensure that we had access to continuing monitoring of the situation on Capitol Hill), and National is very significantly involved in getting factual information out on medication issues.
Speaking of medication, despite the recent firestorm of publicity that some in the horse racing community have started with the attempted elimination of race day Lasix administration, the National HBPA has steadfastly insisted that the scientific findings regarding the vitally important function of Lasix should be preserved. Again this year, an “all star” panel of veterinarians was assembled to speak to us and take questions, and it is clear – without opposing medical or scientific findings – that Lasix is clearly beneficial when provided to the horse. Accordingly, the National HBPA has resolved to do what it can to take on the arguments being posited by some of the “elite” or “old line, upper crust” of racing, some of which has large investments in breeding, and wants to do all it can to preserve the market value of yearlings which it perceives to be impacted due to downturns in sales to European buyers. I understand that these people sit on boards that run the Jockey Club, TOBA, and the Breeders Cup, and are using their big dollars to influence – without science at all – public opinion and public official opinions, against race day Lasix.
The National HBPA will do what it can to oppose bans on race day Lasix. It will do this for many reasons, especially the scientific findings that prove benefit to horses receiving it. At this time, the Washington HBPA will also support this position, as it simply makes good sense to do so, and to protect our beloved horses. The science really proves the point, as does our own practical experience.
As a personal test of this controversy, on July 1, my own 2012 two year old made his first lifetime start, as Debbie and I flew home from Iowa. We missed the race due to the National meeting. However, I had instructed trainer Terry Gillihan to enter the race to run the horse without Lasix, and that regardless of how he ran, to scope him after the race. My fears were realized when 30 minutes after the race – he finished fifth of ten - the scoping showed that he had bled without having had the benefit of Lasix. I can only hope that my decision to test the impact of racing him without Lasix will not have any lasting detrimental effects on my baby, who is a home-bred, and in which I had a hand in birthing. Debbie and I dearly love our horses, and I do not take this Lasix argument lightly - I felt that I needed to put my own horse in the game in order to most effectively understand the issue and carry on the fight for it.
The National HBPA is going to make efforts at spreading the message of the science, and try to address the hysterics of the efforts and arguments made by The Jockey Club, The Breeders Cup, TOBA, and others with messages that clearly follow our positions: that cheaters in our industry who use performance enhancing drugs cannot be tolerated; that athletes can and do benefit from properly administered medications, such as bute and Lasix, and that it is proven by science; and that those who propose banning race day medications do not have horses’ best interests in mind, but only their own pocketbooks, and do so at the detriment.
Switching topics, racing in Washington will meet a schedule challenge from our friends to the south at Portland Meadows. I have been assured by the President and Executive Director of the Oregon HBPA that they have had no part in what Magna has done this year – resetting the schedule at Portland Meadows to compete head to head with Emerald Downs this summer. Rather than the traditional complementary meeting schedules, Magna has elected to change its schedule to overlap with Emerald Downs’ schedule commencing in mid-July and continuing through September.
It is my earnest hope that our owners and trainers and their horses remain in Washington and at Emerald Downs to support our meeting, which should have superior purse conditions, superior track conditions, superior barn areas for the horses, and superior handle. Regardless, I also espouse that we respect the decisions of those who choose to race in Oregon. Everyone will have to make decisions that are right for them, but for those who are interested in the long-term survival of the sport in our state, I believe that supporting racing in Washington at this time is critical – particularly during the months of cross-over competition – is imperative.
Last, in closing, I would like to remind you that we will be having a combined general and nominating meeting next week, on July 11, at the Sales Pavilion. Please join us at 6:30 p.m. for some light food and drink and our meeting at 7:00 p.m. We will learn who the candidates for our board and president will be at that time, and nominations from the floor are also possible at that meeting. Please RSVP by Friday, July 6th.
Thank you for taking the time to read this message. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best to you in racing,