The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HiSA) got off to a solid start last month when Maryland attorney Charles Scheeler was elected by other directors to chair the nine-member board that will act as the independent medication and safety regulator for thoroughbred racing in the United States .
The board includes a few names horse racing should be familiar with (z, and Joseph De Francis, whose family previously owned Maryland Tracks Laurel and Pimlico).
But there are others who bring major league sports experience to the agency. Adolpho Birch spent 23 years at National Football League headquarters, focusing on enforcing integrity and drug issues while Leonard Coleman served as President of the National League for Major League Baseball (and a former member of the Board of Directors of Churchill Downs Inc. . is).
From the political world comes board member Steve Beshear, who served as attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor of Kentucky (his son Andy is the current governor of Kentucky). Dr. Susan Stover of the University of California at Davis pioneered groundbreaking research in equine injury and prevention. Scheeler played a prominent role in Major League Baseball’s Mitchell Report, which examined the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.
They are an outstanding group with a variety of skills that should work well together as the industry ventures into uncharted waters with the development of national drug and safety regulations that require approval from the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC .
The agency’s second step was a stumbling block – temporarily hoped – with the appointment of industry organization veteran Hank Zeitlin as interim managing director. Zeitlin is like this overhauled soccer coach with a mediocre record, who always finds new teams to give him a chance. He has developed from management positions at the Jockey Club to Equibase to the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America in a subtle way.
I trust Scheeler’s word that Zeitlin will only be hired temporarily – that Zeitlin’s institutional knowledge will be somewhat useful once Scheeler and other board members are up to date. In the long run, he is not the right person for the job if the authority is looking for a dynamic manager.
I almost forgot that there was still a North American Thoroughbred Racing Associations and that Zeitlin was collecting an industry paycheck from them. The TRA is not to be confused with the NTRA – the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. They are two different groups in the alphabet soup of racing organizations.
I’m not even sure what the TRA is doing anymore other than counting and passing on the money its circuit members make for their ownership stake in Equibase, the official database of the industry that the TRA tracks jointly with The Jockey Club (TJC) have. . Long ago, including during Zeitlin’s tenure as president, the Equibase board of directors decided that the company’s primary role was to be profitable, and not to serve as a marketing and growth tool for the thoroughbred sport, as almost all other sports use their historical data .
Does the industry still need the TRA? Do we really need the NTRA? Can it do without the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association or the Association of Racing Commissioners International?
This could be a good time for a scaled-down industry to look into consolidating some of these organizations and their responsibilities. TRA could likely outsource Zeitlin’s current position as executive vice president to an accountant. The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, a subsidiary of TRA that once served as a vital health and safety division for horse racing, could play some role in conjunction with the agency, particularly when it comes to betting safety, the main area in which the TRPB operates is now involved.
The NTRA is a ghost of what it was originally almost 25 years ago. After long giving up on being a “league office” for horse racing, the NTRA has concentrated in recent years on lobbying in Washington, DC, holding a profitable handicap tournament and handing out the Eclipse Awards. With NTRA President Alex Waldrop announcing his resignation at the end of the year, this could be a good time to split this responsibility among existing groups like The Jockey Club or Equibase and save some money on salaries.
The same applies to the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA), whose only real purpose is to classify the North American proportions. Since The Jockey Club prepares the statistical data for the annual evaluation process on behalf of TOBA, this responsibility could easily be transferred. TOBA has been in the red in recent years, with the managing director taking home around 30% of the organization’s annual turnover.
And what about the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI)? Its primary function appears to be to develop model rules for a variety of activities in racing, including drug and safety guidelines. With these two categories under the umbrella of the agency, there will be far less meat on the bone for ARCI President Ed Martin to chew on.
Of course, nothing will change. Some of these uninspired leadership organizations have evolved into nothing more than job programs, and they are not going away. Racing cannot afford to let the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) steer it towards mediocrity and become just another ingredient in the boring alphabet soup of racing. Your success is too important.
This is my view of the eighth pole.
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