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Picture: Panelists on opening day of the Global Symposium on Racing
Ray Paulick
What I learned on Tuesday at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program’s Global Symposium on Racing.
I’ve been to this rodeo a few times, though not to all 49 since the Symposium was first held in 1974. I’m sure someone wears that distinction with pride. I wonder what the sport’s biggest challenges were when this annual gathering was created.
Following are some notes and opinions on Day One.
—-Lisa Lazarus, chief executive officer of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, said one of the things the organization will focus on in 2024 is to explore “potential funding mechanisms both governmental and private to reduce the financial burden to the industry.”
One thing I’ve heard over and over from people who have dealt with Lazarus is that she listens. This is one of those examples.
HISA is expensive. Regulating a gambling activity that involves animals is bound to be expensive if done right. It hasn’t been done right in the past with the various state commissions.
Lazarus also said a focus in 2024 will involve greater collaboration with “all industry participants.” One example: Next month, HISA plans to launch a “Next Generation Advisory Group” that will provide younger individuals an opportunity to be heard.
She also said technology will play a greater role going forward. “Many answers to our most pressing problems lie in our data.”
—-Andy Beyer, who I consider an industry treasure as a beloved curmudgeon, was out-curmudgeoned by Steven Crist and Jay Privman during a panel discussion, “Legends of the Game – Racing’s Iconic Turf Writers.”
Beyer was inclined to agree with calls to change the timing of the Triple Crown, saying horsemen are no longer willing to run horses back in the Preakness two weeks after the Kentucky Derby – the Derby winner often being the lone exception. Crist and Privman both pooh-poohed adding more spacing between the races, saying the Triple Crown is one thing the industry does right.
Crist said one of his all-time favorite days was the 1989 Belmont Stakes when Easy Goer turned the tables on Derby-Preakness winner Sunday Silence. In the current climate, Triple Crown rivalries do not exist because horses that don’t win at Churchill Down won’t show up at Pimlico for the Triple Crown’s middle leg as Easy Goer did.
—-Speaking of embracing change, that was the title of the next Tuesday morning panel, which asked the burning question, “Are We Ready to Adopt Category 1 Rules in the U.S.?”
Honestly, I don’t care whether or not the rules governing disqualifications are tweaked – and the consensus of the panel favored change that would result in fewer DQs. I just would like to see consistent rules across all racing jurisdictions and, more importantly, consistent application of the rules.
Horseplayers, me included, are fed up with inconsistent officiating. But I suppose we could say the same of NFL referees.
—An afternoon panel, “Land For Sale. How Will Race Track Closures Impact the Industry’s Long-Term Sustainability?” might as well have been called The Undertakers. There were only glimmers of hope for racing’s future from the speakers who cited declining foal crops, declining wagering, and a declining number of racetracks. But maybe that’s what you get when you ask six aging, white, male industry professionals (not unlike me) to sit on a panel discussing the future.
—Finally, the manure from the enablers of computer-assisted wagering players was knee deep in a panel pondering “The Good, The Bad, and the Future” of a maddening development that is causing longtime horseplayers to quit the game.
The largest CAW players are affiliated with Elite Turf Club, which is owned by the Stronach Group and New York Racing Association. Stronach Group and NYRA won’t reveal the sweetheart deals given to Elite players or provide wagering details on how much Elite Players are betting or winning. One panelist was blatantly dishonest in saying anyone could get the same deals.
Scott Daruty, a longtime Stronach Group executive, essentially said “trust us” when it comes to the kinds of deals they are giving to the Elite players.
As former President Ronald Reagan said during negotiations with the Russians on arms control: “Trust, but verify.”
I’ll trust them when they are more transparent and we can verify the deals Elite Turf Club players are getting, how much they are betting, and how much they are taking out of the pools.