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Sid Fernando - The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017

SID FERNANDOWeb Master
  By Sid Fernando       The current political regime – as opposed to the previous one – favors diminished government, deregulation, states’ rights, American isolationism/anti-globalism, and anti-immigration, yet into this discernible climate change we as an industry are charging head first to effect changes at odds with these precepts. Making the entire process comical is that most industry participants, from wealthy owners and breeders at The Jockey Club to blue-collar owners and trainers in the provinces, are Republicans who supported this regime in the voting booth, even though we never support each other on myriad industry issues. This, surely, must make us headless horsemen, because we’re probably going to get our heads handed to us on a platter from this regime just as we do from each other. Simply, we engage in mutually destructive warfare because we don’t have the type of leadership to cross the aisle, compromise, and steer a clear course for the benefit of all.       Take the case of the migrant workers from south of the border who form a significant part of our breeding and racing industries. Many are dependent on H-2B visas for working legally here. Although the administration did announce recently that an additional 15,000 slots for 2017 have opened up for H-2Bs after pressure was applied from a number of industries, we didn’t do much to stop the lapse of this “returning worker” program last September in the first place, and we’ve done far too little as an industry to advocate for it since. And what little we are doing through the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, of course, flies in the face of a new political and social agenda that isn’t friendly to the Hispanics that overwhelmingly comprise the program. Meanwhile, all of us are facing severe labor shortages at all levels of the game because we didn’t act for the good of all at the expense of our personal political ideology.       The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R.2651), introduced in May, is another example of ignoring climate change (and the pun is intended) on many fronts. First off, we’re trying to introduce federal regulatory measures while the government is busy dismantling regulations. Moreover, this bill would take away from states their rights to regulate while the winds of politics are in favor of more power for states at the expense of the federal government.       At the heart of this bill is one of the most divisive issues in horseracing: 24-hour administering of Lasix. Some of us – the wealthy owners and breeders and their trainers who race at the biggest venues and compete in the big stakes races and who are represented by The Jockey Club – would like to abolish race-day Lasix, while the small timers amongst us – represented by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) – advocate for its continued use as a humane therapeutic medication that prevents exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH).        Our Jockey Club group has led the lobbying efforts to get this bill introduced and passed, and part of their strategy is to harmonize medication rules with the rest of the world. It’s right there in the bill, in this section that states: “The use of therapeutic medications in horseracing in the United States must place the health and welfare of the horse at the highest level of priority while achieving consistency with the uses permitted in major international horseracing jurisdictions.”       Another section also mentions internationalism. It states the bill “will improve the marketplace for domestic and international sales of United States horses, will provide a platform for consistency with all major international horseracing standards, address growing domestic concerns over disparities with international rules, and provide for the safety and welfare of horses and jockeys.”       Now, those of us who are the smaller players in the game are not so concerned with international racing and competition, nor with the international sales of bloodstock, so this bill clearly draws a line in the sand between the upper and lower echelons of the business. But whatever we may feel about this this bill, a month after its introduction, in June the president of the United States took the country out of the Paris climate accord, which was signed by 195 nations. His stance is crystal clear and anti-global. American isolationism, instead of consistency with international norms, is the flavor of the day.       Another irony about the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017, with its international concerns, is that it references the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 (IHA), which was passed specifically so that the federal government “should prevent interference by one State with the gambling policies of another, and should act to protect identifiable national interests” and that “there is a need for Federal action to ensure States will continue to cooperate with one another in the acceptance of legal interstate wagers.” In other words the IHA’s federal intervention was to play referee among states, and internationalism had no place in it. The IHA also was a guardian of the HBPA’s rights, as it specifically protected horsemen in interstate wagering arrangements, saying that a host racing association “must have a written agreement with the horsemen's group” to conduct interstate wagering.       Given the deregulating political climate we’re in – recently the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives, led by Republicans, voted to allow horse slaughter plants in the country to open again – the chances of the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 passing into law anytime soon are about as great as a snowball’s chance in hell. But that’s not going to stop some of us from going full steam ahead in its support, while others, just as vigorously, will oppose it. Meanwhile, folks, the polar cap really is melting, and coastal erosion is taking place while we do nothing about it, and perhaps that’s the apt metaphor for the state of horseracing.

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The current political regime – as opposed to the previous one – favors diminished government, deregulation, states’ rights, American isolationism/anti-globalism, and anti-immigration, yet into this discernible climate change we as an industry are charging head first to effect changes at odds with these precepts.

Making the entire process comical is that most industry participants, from wealthy owners and breeders at The Jockey Club to blue-collar owners and trainers in the provinces, are Republicans who supported this regime in the voting booth, even though we never support each other on myriad industry issues.

This, surely, must make us headless horsemen, because we’re probably going to get our heads handed to us on a platter from this regime just as we do from each other. Simply, we engage in mutually destructive warfare because we don’t have the type of leadership to cross the aisle, compromise, and steer a clear course for the benefit of all.

 

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