The horse racing industry in North America is full of organizations with their own special agendas. For this reason, it is difficult for racing to unite on any given issue. The saying that “it is like herding cats” is true in the case of fragmented racing. The latest infighting is over the abolishment of race-day furosemide (a.k.a. Lasix or Salix).

A president of the United States by the name of Lincoln once had something very profound and cautionary to say about “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

A popular and valid lament is that racing lacks the ability to have a centralized authority to advance its welfare. Unlike the major sports leagues, a racing commissioner or president with sweeping authority is not possible because each state with racing makes its own rules and runs its own show.

During and after the 2012 Triple Crown season, racing in the United States was repeatedly pilloried in the media over various concerns, mainly medication. The most persistent and influential critic was the New York Times. A number of individuals from within the racing enterprise provided a rebuttal, mostly ad hoc. No one coordinated the efforts due to the absence of a strong central organization for the entire industry. NTRA evidently does not have the resources and/or the skills to do the job.

It is no doubt true that the last thing racing needs is another organization. However, maybe this is the time to consider an exception owing to the vacuum of leadership in the above-mentioned media attacks.

The major racing-industry organizations and racetracks could, in everyone’s best interests, create and fund a non-profit whose sole mission would be to advance racing’s image to the general public. The bylaws would be such that the bureaucracy would be limited to only a handful of employees, who would run day-to-day operations and outsource public-relations needs. In other words, the organization’s mission would be focused like a laser and built-in safeguards would assure that the administrative costs would not increasingly siphon off the funds available for image-building.

A significant player in American racing told me that this concept would not work because existing racing interests would not support it over parochial concerns. He may be right. But, to use a boxing metaphor, the racing enterprise will be KO’d for sure if it continues to lean defenseless against the ropes while the media pummels it. That is not the famous “rope-a-dope” tactic that Muhammad Ali used to sucker George Forman into expending his energy, but rather, that is being a dope.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business


  1. Wile E. Coyote Super Genius says

    The Racing Industry, like every other Industry, is waiting on someone else to spend the money to solve the problems. The greed and selfishness runs so deep, that to coin a phrase “cut off your nose to spite your face”. The solution to the problem lies in solving the skeletal issues, of the horse, and the side effect of that fix is the solution to the bleeder situation. The Industry responds, when public outrage demands it, by throwing millions around so it looks like effort and progress is being made. In reality, the arrogance and ignorance prevents looking at the facts, using information that is fifteen years old, and paying for the data. The cost is inexpensive, per animal and does not involve a product. Knowing how to use, “off the shelf” products is the answer!

  2. “Unlike the major sports leagues, a racing commissioner or president with sweeping authority is not possible because each state with racing makes its own rules and runs its own show.”

    In each major league, the talent or those who own the rights to the talent, agree to rules and vest authority in a commissioner.

    In racing, the talent has no position, so until the owners of the talent decide to take responsibility, what Bill says is true.

    But, if the owners of the talent did agree to abide by rules against medication on race day, the states cannot make them give their horses medication, or drugs and a commissioner with vested authority could kick the individual owner and/or horse out of the association.

    That’s how authority has authority in the major leagues. They don’t say you violated the rules and cannot play the sport, they say, you cannot play with us.