USHRAA Newsletter
January, 2019
​​Issue - 006

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In this Issue

Introduction, by Freddie Hudson 

A Leadership Deficit, by Monica Bencal​ 
When the "As-Is" Clause Doesn't Apply, by Richard Young 
Young Victory Should Have Been Noted, by Bob Marks
American Horse Council’s Unwanted Horse Coalition transitions to new name and focus, American Horse Council
Legalization of Sports Betting, by USHRAA
A New Years Thought, by Charles Martino​ ​
A Grooms Journey Part IV, by Oscar Belliveau
Reader Comments

​By, Freddie Hudson

Welcome to the January issue of the United States Harness Racing Alumni Association's newsletter. In this issue Monica Bencal takes a look at the harness racing industries leadership, Richard Young shares his story about his recent  trial over the "As-Is" clause,  The USHRAA  offers some insight into the legalization of sportsbetting, Charles Martino shares his thoughts on our horses and Oscar Belliveau continues with his journey of becoming a groom.

Our newsletter continues to be well received and we continue to receive many  complements. It is published on the first of each month. Our monthly readership is over 3,000 and continues to grow. We cover horse and human interest stories and we  focus on the issues that are of concern to all involved in the thoroughbred and  harness racing industries.

The mission of the USHRAA is the enhanced promotion of the harness racing sport, the passage of legislation that benefits the sport, the promotion of equine assisted therapy for our veterans and the promotion of best practices in the aftercare of our horses.

I hope that you continue to enjoy  reading  our articles and that you find them enjoyable and educational. We welcome feedback and If you have an article,  an announcement, or comment for our next issue please email it to [email protected]

Thank you and wishing all very happy and successful new year,

Freddie Hudson

Freddie Hudson

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In My Opinion

A Leadership Deficit
By Monica Bencal

Before I get started on this month’s topic, I would like to take a minute and wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year! The New Year is a time of new beginnings and hope for the future. Here’s wishing all your hopes and dreams for 2019 come true!

New Year’s Day I think is also an appropriate time for this month’s topic – Leadership. It is the time of year when fresh starts are possible, and this is certainly an area where improvement is needed.

Before I start on this month’s piece, I would like to remind people that I love harness racing, but loving harness racing does not mean that I am blind to the many problems in the industry. I agreed to write this series of articles as a way to shed light on certain issues that I feel are destroying the sport of harness racing. It is my hope that by having discussions on how our problems can be solved, we can start to bring positive changes to the industry.

Just to recap, in October I put out a list highlighting the problems of the harness industry. In November, I suggested that our Attitudes and Perceptions were our #1 problem. The way the USTA is organized was my focus in December 2018. At the end of last month’s piece, I wrote, “I believe it is time that the leaders within the USTA step up and once again re-invent the organization. They did it in 1938 and I think there are ways that they could do this again.” I then went on to state the things I think need to be changed at the leadership level of the USTA IF we want that leadership to be effective in governing the industry.

In this discussion though, I think it is important to understand what the word Leadership actually means. Forbes defines Leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards achievement of a goal. Basically, what this is saying is that the person in charge of an organization is able to motivate a larger group of people to work toward a common goal. As I stated in last month’s newsletter, the USTA is our industry’s only governing body, but that organization in its current state, cannot help revitalize the industry. It is my opinion, that drastic measures should be taken by the leadership of the USTA so that it CAN lead the industry into the future. In order to do that, I truly believe that the following changes need to be instituted.

    1, The first thing the USTA leadership needs to
        acknowledge is that its corporate structure is just way
        too cumbersome! Having 59 people as Directors at six (6)
        different management levels does not work! There are
        just too many people. There will never be a consensus
        among this large of a group about the direction the
        industry should go in. This number needs to be drastically

     2, We also need younger leaders with innovative ideas to
         head up the organization. What I think we are lacking is
         a fresh perspective on how our industry should function
         in the future.

    3, We also need to pay this leadership so that we can
        attract the best and the brightest candidates. Having the
        position of President as an unpaid position ensures that
        only a limited number of people can fill that position.

    4, We have to stop having the only organization tasked
        with leadership stay as “the good old boy network” it
        has become.

    5, Most importantly, I believe we have to give the 16,000
        people that are the base members of this organization
        a real voice. This means that people that have a
        membership card with the USTA need to be able to vote
        on the issues that affect their lives and livelihoods.

    6, And of course, if you are giving people in an
        organization real power, there needs to be

If I am saying that we need to make the above changes, and I am, we also need to assess whether the current leadership at the USTA is capable of instituting these changes. It is my opinion that, the USTA in its current form cannot bring about the necessary changes that are needed to revitalize the industry. Harness racing is in trouble: Racetracks are closing; attendance and on-track handle is non-existent, and if it were not for government and corporate subsidies, harness racing would already be a thing of the past. These troubling signs tell me Harness Racing’s current leadership is not effective. But as incredulous as it sounds, the USTA does not seem to believe this assessment. Not only has the leadership put out a statement in the past that all is well in the industry, they seemingly cannot, or choose not to, put forth an agenda that would even try to fix many of this industry’s problems.

I believe the leadership problem at the USTA begins with the fact that there are just too many Directors in its organizational structure. The funny thing is that even the USTA realizes this fact. I know this because one of its Directors told me recently that the USTA paid a consultant to come in and tell them how they could become more efficient. From my understanding, this paid expert told them that the number of Directors in the organization was excessive, and that this was one of the major obstacles hindering their efficiency. The sad part of this story is that after paying this expert to come in and speak to them, and after they were given practical advice how to improve the organization, they choose to ignore that advice. One would have to wonder why?

I recently read an article that addressed the issue of ineffective leadership in organizations. This article also offered insights as to why leaders might be reluctant to institute needed changes. The author, Mike Myatt, in his article “Why Your Organization Suffers from Leadership Dysfunctional” (3/21/2013) stated that “The larger an organization becomes; the more acceptable mediocrity seems to become.” The leaders at the helm accept this mediocrity, according to Mr. Myatt, because some people in leadership roles “go along to get along”. The only cure for the problem, according to the author is to seek out people for leadership roles that “challenge the status quo, offer new thought, encourage dissenting opinions”. Until that happens, an organization will continue to struggle.
At this point I think it is important to understand that I am not saying people go in a leadership role looking to do a bad job. Everyone I know goes into this type of position expecting to be the messiah that pushes their organization to new heights. If that is true, then you have to ask yourself “Why is it that some people are effective leaders and others are not?” The simple answer is that some people just do not possess the requisite skills needed to be an effective leader. The solution of course is to broaden the pool from which leaders are chosen. To do that we need to pay people in a leadership role at the USTA. Leadership takes time and energy and people should be paid for their efforts. We also need younger leaders that can possess a vision for the future. What should not be done is to continue to allow ineffective leadership to stay at the helm of our only governing body.

The issue of accountability also needs to be addressed if we truly are looking to change things for the better. Leaders need to be accountable for their actions. This is even more important in an organization like the USTA where members put up their money to support the organization, but the President, Vice-President and the Directors decide when and how to use that money. Mike Wyatt also addressed this issue in his article when he leaders should be people “who desire to serve instead of seeking to be served.” People I have spoken to have said that they feel many of the leaders in positions of power at the USTA are there to serve their own interests and not the interests of the industry as a whole. Bob Abrams, a regular contributor to HRU’s Feedback Column, also believes this to be true when he wrote that the USTA (and in his mind Standardbred Canada) “are an insiders’ club paid for by the industry and they have done little to nothing and have not pulled their weight in making the product viable form of entertainment.” (HRU Feedback, October 28, 2018) I believe he is correct. The people in leadership roles at the USTA are the only ones able to institute changes in the leadership structure, but because these same leaders reap benefits because of the way the organization is structured, that change is unlikely to occur.

To illustrate, this point, I’d like to tell you the following story. I was reading my monthly subscription to Hoof Beats when I came across the USTA’s Income Statement for 2017. As an accountant, I find Income Statements very interesting. You can tell a lot about an entity’s activities just by reviewing the numbers listed in this document. When I came down to the Expenses section, I noticed something peculiar: The expense for District and Association Meeting doubled in size from $167,501 to $304,034. What I realized is that this increase of $167,034 was a direct result of the leadership deciding that the District Meeting should take place in Las Vegas that year. And because the 60 Directors were going there to conduct the yearly business of the USTA, all of the expenses (flights, hotels, and meals) were to be covered by the USTA. What makes this different, and in my mind, unacceptable, is that the USTA justified raising the rates on various services to members in 2017 by saying they needed the increase to offset losses the organization suffered. If an organization needs to raise their rates to members in order to remain viable, I cannot see how they could justify the expense of sending all 60 Directors out to Las Vegas for a District Meeting.
From Hoof Beats May 2018

Years Ended                                      December 31,       December 31,
                                                                    2017                       2016
Under Expenses:
Outside help                                          762,038                  881,994
Travel                                                      126,229                  136,026
District and association meetings    304,034                  167,501
Unfortunately, because the USTA does not have a system by which they are held accountable on how they spend the money they take in, these kinds of reckless expenditures go unnoticed. There were two (2) things that made this trip even more distasteful in my mind. First, it was widely reported that many of the Directors did not even bother to attend some of the sessions that were scheduled for them. Additionally, the same Director that told me about the Efficiency Expert, also told me that there were abuses with regards to how money for flights and their hotel rooms were reimbursed. Specifically, I was told that “additional days” were added to their expense reports so that people could claim reimbursements for funds that they were not entitled to receive. What makes these types of incidents unacceptable is that we are an industry that is struggling to survive.

What people should realize is that I am not an “industry insider”. The reason I know of these incidents is because I was told about them by people who actually were there. By recounting these occurrences though, I hope to open people eyes to the need for change. Many changes are needed in our industry if we are going to survive, but in addition to changing our Attitudes and Perceptions, the leadership at the USTA needs to change both its organizational structure, and the way it conducts its business. Our leaders need to have a vision of where we need to be in the future, and they need to map out a strategy of how to get there. In addition, they need to be held accountable for their actions. I have some serious doubts as to whether the USTA is going to be able to police its own actions, but since it is New Year’s I continue to hope this will occur. If it does not occur, I am afraid we are destined to fail.

This article and the opinions expressed within are solely the opinions of the author. This article is the fourth article in a series of articles exploring the changes that would be necessary to reverse the downward trend seen in the harness racing industry. Each month the author will address one issue that was listed in the first article of the series. Please feel free to express your opinion on this or any topic presented. Any questions or replies to the article may be addressed to the author and sent to [email protected] or in the comment section below the article in this month’s newsletter. All responses will be acknowledged and printed provided that a name and contact information is provided. The next article will examine the issue of Leadership in the Harness Racing Community. Thank you and see you next month!


Harness Racing News

Richard Young

Mr. Young has have been an owner in the Standardbred industry for over 20 years. He has owned not one, but two world champions, Put On A Show (31 wins in 50 starts with earnings of $2.4 million) and I Luv The Nitelife (17 wins in 25 stars with earnings of $1.9 million). As an owner he has owned many other horses and stakes winners. He travels throughout the country to watch his horse’s race and he is a big supporter of the industry.

When the "AS-IS" Clause Doesn't Apply
By, Richard Young

First and foremost , I want to make this clear, the “AS IS” clause is important and necessary for live auctions. One cannot expect to attend a horse sale, find something wrong, and expect to return the horse. There are avenues to inspect a horse before the auction which should eliminate virtually all issues. OCDs and hairline fractures are not a reason to expect relief. They can be x-rayed at the sale. However, it is also true many breeders and consignors accept the return of horses in extreme cases and that is part of my defense. However that is done on an individual basis and is up to the consignor or breeder, not the sale company.

First, let me outline the case brought up against me. David and Brian Legge from Ontario, Canada, put a yearling in the 2013 Harrisburg Yearling Sale. The filly’s name was Eloquent Diva and was consigned by Preferred Equine. I was the winning bidder at $67,000. The next day, we discovered an edema in the horses belly and our vet Dr. Dey was called in to examine it. He said, “The edema may or may not be an issue, but I detect what I think is a severe heart condition.” I contacted both the Legges and Dr. Pete Spears, President of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company, of the potential problem and everyone agreed to wait for the conclusions from New Bolton Veterinary Hospital. This became important as there was no demand for payment then. The result came back that the filly suffered from a major VSD, a large hole in her heart. Dr. Reef , an expert in heart problems in horses, said that THE FILLY IS GUARDED FOR LIFE, NEVER MIND RACING. She said she is not likely to live past 5, maybe 6 years. She told me that I should not train or breed her, and should I wish to train her, I should include tests prior to training and during to make sure I am not putting undue stress on her.

I informed the parties of the results and told them I would like to return the horse. After a short time, maybe a week, Dr. Spears told me that I had a bonafide reason not to pay for the horse and that they will not pursue me for payment. I thought it was over and the Legges, being told the same thing by Dr. Spears, would take back the horse. The Standardbred Horse Sale Company then got out of their contract with the Legges, citing the pre-existing condition. However, the Legges still wanted their money. They negotiated to purchase the contract I had with the Standardbred Horse Sale Company, namely for the provision of the "AS IS "clause, and in turn, indemnified SHSC from future damages.

The Legges then refused to talk to me. They had been told not to speak to me by their consignor, David Reid of Preferred Equine. When I called Dr. Spears, he said it is no longer in his hands and to speak to David Reid. David Reid refused to speak with me and said it’s not his problem; “ I am only the consignor, I haven't received my commission, talk to Dr. Spears.” I thought to myself, I am now playing ping pong, the only problem is that I am the ball. 

Eventually they decided to sue me for nonpayment of the yearling, citing breach of contract.

The Trial:

The plaintiff’s job is to prove I had breached my contract by not paying for the yearling. They cited the "AS IS "clause in the contract I had with SHSC that was assigned to them for considerations. They claimed I had every right to examine the filly before or right after the sale. They claimed it’s a matter of luck that the yearling may not make it to the races as a large percentage do not. They also tried to pound home I could have trained her. 

The Legges testimony admitted to conversations I had, or stated I had, with them, David Reid, and Dr. Pete Spears. They also admitted the horse’s value was zero once they knew of her condition. What a slippery slope that was for them to think a breeder could never examine a horse, and then sell the horse at auction regardless of how sick it may be.

They had two expert witnesses. One was Dr. Pink who was employed by Hanover at the time Diva was foaled. She stated she had no recollection of seeing the filly but based on other peoples’ observations, she was a healthy, normal foal. I was not sure why she was even there.

Their second expert witness was Bob Boni . When I discovered Bob was their expert, I had trouble believing it. I had done a lot business with Bob. He had sold or acted as my agent for maybe two million dollars worth of business. I had decided to ask Bob to help me as an expert discussing this very case. He told me that he would help me in any way that he could and that he could certainly reference horses being given back. After that conversation I had discussed having him consign "Come See the Show" , a yearling I intended on buying back at the Kentucky sale. I eventually decided to reward Hunterton Farms to consign her since they had her from birth. However, once I didn't give Bob the filly, we had very few conversations and then I discovered he would actually testify against me. The discussion I had with Mr. Boni was on messenger and for some reason I had kept it.  When confronted about the conversation I said happened,  he could not recall it ever happening. All he could say was he was a strong proponent of the “AS IS” clause. I then had my Perry Mason moment and presented the documentation that proved otherwise. At that point Bob had no recourse. This is all a matter of court record.

They had David Reid who also said the “AS IS” clause was law and that horses taken back is up to the breeder. He stated that he's just the consignor and he admitted to telling the Legges to not talk to me. I believe his attitude worked in our favor. He was not asked if he would take back this horse. I think the jury knew at this point that he was the reason this case would never get settled.

The testimony of Dr. Pete Spears as their witness was a little confusing. He had told me that " I had a bonafide reason not to pay for the horse". He also said the offer I had made to them was "more than generous." This offer was made through a friend of mine, Eric Cherry to the Legges as they would not talk to me. He said he himself has taken back horses as had Hanover. Dr. Pete Spears is a very intelligent individual. He had to walk the tight rope stating eloquently, couldn't help the pun, that it is all up to the seller and SHSC has nothing to do with it. Truly interesting since my contract is with SHSC not anyone else. He states that the “AS IS” clause is important to the whole fabric of the system. I actually do not disagree with that.

There was other testimony on the condition of the horse at the sale but it really did not have any real impact. I would have liked to have known about the edema at the sale. Maybe my vet would have found it there instead of finding it two days later.

Richard Young with "I Luv The Nite Life" (Photo By Derick Giwner DRF) 

The defense:

We needed to prove that we did not breach the contract. However we had multiple defenses. One was it is customary to take back such a horse. Bob Marks, our expert witness, testified that its common to take back a horse in such a condition. If they did not they would no longer be in business. 

We had the waiver defense. Did the Standardbred Horse Sale Company waive the right to sue me once they told me I had a bonafide reason to not pay? Remember the Legges acquired the contract and must act as SHSC.

We had a third defense which is called express warrantee. Advertisements and conversations about the horse before or after the sale are considered an express warrantee and they eliminate any “AS IS” clause. It’s the law in PA. If express warrantee is established, it never gets to the “AS IS” clause. I had had a conversation with their trainer at the auction where he had told me she was broke and will be a super filly. He testified as well admitting that to be true. 

We had the expert of all experts, Dr. Virginia Reef, on the condition of Diva and that she will likely die at 5 or 6 years of age. She did in fact die two weeks into her 5th year.  We had Bob Marks testifying that despite the “AS IS” clause, horses are taken back for these types of issues and even less serious problems.

We had Dr. Dye testify that by merely touching the horse’s chest, he suspected a heart condition. We had a vet, Dr. Barabas in N. Florida where the horse was being kept, testify how she deteriorated and eventually died before we could put her down.

It was now time for my testimony. I had done everything by the book. I contacted the powers that be immediately upon learning the horse’s condition. I supplied them with the required documentation. I tried to settle even though I was told my offer was more than generous. I testified it is my understanding that certain conditions would facilitate relief. They kept saying I could have had her examined. I argued that congenital heart disease can only be confirmed with an MRI and that we expect horses to at least be healthy at the auction. That should not be the luck of the draw. and it’s ridiculous to expect the buyer to inspect every horse for heart, lung, kidneys, and other organs at the sale. And we had no reason to check it. The owners apparently didn't do a full body checkup in 18 months and you expect me to do one on every horse I may be interested in? They insisted I still could have trained her regardless of her condition and horses just don't all make it to the races . I testified I would never take the chance that the filly might die. I could never have lived with myself.  That may kill someone else as well. In the end I testified this was not about the money. It’s about what is right. It’s about what is just. If bidders were responsible to do full body exams, no one would bid. We rested.

The jury came back in 20 minutes wanting to know how much they could award the defense. They concluded the plaintiffs did not show that I breached the contract . Our other defenses did not matter. My thoughts are that this case should never have made it to trial. I believe the Legges got poor advice in pursuing this. It appeared that David Reid passed the buck, showing that he did not adequately consider the outcome to the seller or his customers. From the statements made during trial, the Legges were apparently told that I had been in this business a long time, knew that I had to pay for the horse, and that the Legges should not be talking to me. In my opinion, that was more indicative of misaligned roles than beneficial information. I believe the sales company should have been more proactive. They too passed the buck wanting nothing to do with the fight. I feel quite confident they will never again assign their rights to the sellers as they then have no control over what happens next. Their attorneys were left with the predicament of sitting in the courtroom hoping the sanctity of the “AS IS” clause would prevail.

Let’s understand that this was a very extreme case. It may happen once a year. This does not open the door for horse buyers to now have a new out - to be permitted to bid on horses and then arbitrarily give them back. However, extreme cases must be addressed. There needs to be wording that allows for simple relief in this type of situation. Pre-existing conditions that would customarily preclude a sale and that, in truth, render a horse incapable of doing what they are in the sale to do must be addressed. They were selling potential race horses, not seriously ill horses to be kept by buyers as companion pets until they die.  

The statements made in this foregoing article are the sole opinions of the author of the article, not the publisher
or publishing organization.  



Bob Marks

Marks is a harness racing Hall of Famer has been involved in the harness racing industry for over 50 years. He first established himself as a top handicapper and PR man at Roosevelt and Yonkers Raceways. He then started  contributing a steady stream of articles to the top trade publications.

In 1988 Marks took the job as pedigree analyst and marketing director at the noted Perretti Farms in New Jersey. He is the co-author of several books including Meadow Skipper, Murray Brown and Rose Runners.

Young Victory: Should Have Been Noted
​By, Bob Marks

Considering what it cost him in legal fees, the jury’s decision in the case of Eloquent Diva (Legges versus Young) could hardly be called a victory in that those fees far exceeded what would have been the $67,000 auction ticket for the now deceased filly.

But what’s right is right, the filly was indeed damaged goods with no chance of ever racing and it took the jury all of 20 minutes to rule in Richard Young’s favor.

No need to retell the story here as you’ll read it elsewhere in this publication but “kudos” to Fred Hudson and team for allowing the story to be told.

I’m not sure why other and perhaps more established media declined to post the story as first and foremost it is documented news and not ‘fake news” as there will undoubtedly be ramifications and perhaps legal rewording to the as-is clause that appears in yearling catalogs.

Moreover, I’d imagine both sellers and buyers as horse auctions have a vested interest in how this case played out which for them would be an item of required reading.

But again, “kudos” to the Hudson team for printing the story and allowing the reader to make up his or her mind as to the validity and ultimate ramification of Eloquent Diva.

Bob Marks & Freddie Hudson

Sports Betting

legalization of Sports Betting

Legal sports books have begun operations in New Jersey and Delaware and they've have been legal in Nevada for 50 years. But the new legal sports books in New Jersey and Delaware have just started operating. and there is the potential for New York, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania to join them very soon.

The projections indicate that legal sports betting could exceed $120 billion in wagers by 2023, which is about 90 times the handle of today's harness racing. While all forms of gaming ultimately compete for a share of the consumers wagering dollar, according to the Jockey Club they believe that the threat of cannibalization from legal sports betting is limited for racing.

Their reasoning is that racing has continued to prosper in countries that have legal sports betting. The examples include, Hong Kong, Ireland, Australia, and France all have legal horse racing and all have legal sports betting. And in all four countries, the per capita of gross wins, the takeout per person in those countries, it's higher for racing than it is for sports betting in those countries, and it's higher for racing in those countries than it is for racing in the U.S. So it's clearly possible for racing to continue to generate handle in competition with legal sports betting.

The second reason that they think the threat from legal sports betting to racing is limited in the U.S. is that in their research among U.S. horse racing fans, only 4% said they'd bet less on racing if sports betting were legalized in their state. 4%. So that may sound low, but one potential explanation that they  think has a lot of merit is that many of those who intend to bet in legal sports books as sports betting becomes legalized, they're already betting informally with friends or illegally with a bookie or an offshore book, and therefore -- or when they happen to be in Nevada. So that limits the extra sports betting that will happen as it goes legal.

For example, last fall, 21% of all U.S. sports fans and 35%, a third, of avid sports fans said they already bet on pro sports.
While it is expected that the cannibalization threat of legal sports betting will be somewhat limited, that outlook will depend on the racing industry's willingness to respond to that competitive threat in three areas.

First, cross-selling. Given there will be hundreds of millions of dollars per year invested by sports books in developing their websites, developing their mobile applications, investing in television and digital marketing, investing in promotions, and therefore they'll generate millions of accounts for online sports books, racing can benefit by cross-selling to sports bettors, many of whom will be betting online for the first time.
Because races are just two minutes long and they occur year-round, they're a natural way for sports bettors to fill downtime for another sports match or during a game break like halftime.
But cross-selling effectively depends on convenience in placing a bet. That means the bettor should be able to use the same account, set up with the same registration process, using the same payment method as he or she used for sports betting. Racing should just be another tab in the online sports book, just like other sports, and the user experience should be just as similar as possible.

Now, while that sounds fairly intuitive, if states give regulatory authority for sports betting to different state departments than those that regulate racing today, the new department may create different rules about registration processes or operating requirements or marketing requirements. These are fairly tactical, mundane things, but in writing the new regulations, if those rules are different, it could make it infeasible or impossible to cross sell online. Therefore, the racing industry should take action to ensure consistent regulations across both sports betting and race betting.

Meadowlands - FanDuel

The second imperative for racing is innovation in the betting experience. For example, in response to the growth of online sports betting in the U.K., U.K. horse racing bookmakers have innovated by offering insurance or cash-outs or even in-race bets through exchanges, which we don't really have in the U.S. today.

There are many ways the U.S. could innovate in race betting. One was mentioned in 2011 was single-pool wagering, which could enable faster development of new bet types and also reduce the volatility of odds changes.

The third and perhaps most fundamental change that racing could make in the response to legalization of sports betting is to offer fixed-odds betting for Win/Place/Show bets.

The argument for fixed odds is that virtually all sports, at least in the U.S., virtually all sports bets are fixed odds, and therefore sports bettors are already accustomed to locking in their odds at the time they place the bet. Although pari-mutuel betting has significant advantages for the track or the race book, many horse bettors dislike the odds changes that can happen in pari-mutuel betting, especially big moves just before or even after the race has started due to the cycles of the tote.

The experience of Australia and the U.K., which offer pari-mutuel betting in parallel with fixed-odds betting, suggests that bettors prefer fixed odds when they have a choice. For example, in Australia, fixed odds now represents 39% of Tabcorp's racing revenues versus only 14% in 2013, and fixed-odds revenue in Australia has grown at 25% per year since 2013, while pari-mutuel revenue has declined at 5% per year since then.

Now, for fixed odds to be successful in the U.S. for U.S. racing, we'd need, first of all, a commission on all Win/Place/Show bets. That should be roughly equal to the net from off-track pari-mutuel bets today. So when a bet is placed off track or in ADW, about 8 to 10% of the wager goes to the track, taxes, and the purse. 

There would have to be a mechanism for setting odds. Right now, the pari-mutuel pool sets the odds. But in fixed-odds betting, the odds maker would have to set the odds, or a third-party odds maker could do it. That's already done in Europe even for U.S. races, and it's done routinely in the U.K. by U.K. bookmakers for U.K. and European races. So it's clearly feasible.

The third thing and importantly is we'd need regulatory changes both in the state hosting the track and in the states in which the bets are placed. We would expect a fairly warm reception from regulators on fixed-odds betting, assuming the horse racing industry was aligned on the terms that were required.


A New Years Thought
By, Charles Martino

Go to any harness racing site and you will eventually find a conversation that goes back to a discussion of an old war horse that has been etched in someones memory. Those people always speak about those horses in a fondness that is as memorable as waking up Christmas morning. We all have them, and for most of us we have not just one horse but many. On those special days when that horse raced, you thought, today will be the day. Then when that special horse came through it was like he won just for you and you were the only person in the grandstand.

I mention this because these animals are special, but what is not special is what happens to them after their racing careers are over. This is where we as an industry need to change. When we look at the economics it easy to see that when a horse loses his ability to earn high dollar amounts his future become dim. After all of his hard miles and his extra efforts, that horse now falls victim to luck. Will he be bought by someone who believes that when the horses racing days are over he deserves a good home? Or will he be bought by a user, one that uses the racing life that the horse has left, then sells him to get back 20% of his investment? It is those horses that usually end up in the hands of less than scrupulous people, people who will be looking for a quick buck and that is all.

We as an Industry have failed these faithful animals that have followed us down to the tracks to post parade and without begrudges went forward to race over and over for us.

This Industry has been bailed out, through the addition of slots. Every facet of the industry has shared in this bailout that is every facet except the stars themselves. It is time to change that, we need to understand that it is our sin of not acting on this, and we must hold ourselves accountable for it.

There are many ways to do that. I am not saying we pay for them for the rest of their natural life’s, I am saying that we fund the rescue, placement and retraining of them. This could be done in many ways, 2% of a horses earnings could go into an interest bearing account for them. It then gets tapped into when rescue and retraining needs come about. We could ear mark 1.5% of all nightly purses to go into an account that gets used yearly. With that will come a responsibility to make sure we get the most for those dollars? That will take rules that regulate what standards rescue’s will have to have in order to receive contributions.

Charles Martino

This would be the very best advertizing we could ever invest in. We could show our industry as an ecosystem that insures a pleasant lifelong existence for the horses that our fans are watching nightly. I don’t expect this to be easy, but I will remind you that at one time we as a nation never looked for the easy way out.

For as JFK said;

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

American Horse Council

Julie Broadway

Julie is the President of the American Horse Council. She has over 30 years of leadership experience in both for-profit and non-profit sectors, Julie holds a BS, MBA, Executive Certificate in Non-Profit Leadership  and is Certified Association Executive ® . She’s a life-long horse enthusiast ranging from recreational rider, breeder, and show competitor. A native of NC, she and her husband now reside in DC along with their Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Morgan horses.

American Horse Council’s Unwanted Horse Coalition transitions to new name and focus
By, American Horse Council

The American Horse Council’s Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC), formed in 2006 to bring attention to the issue and challenges of unwanted horses, will be renamed and rebranded as the United Horse Coalition.

The changes reflect the industry’s unity around the importance of aftercare and the progress and extensive resources that have come to fruition since the UHC’s inception. The UHC’s new mission statement reads, “Through industry collaboration, the UHC promotes education and options for at-risk and transitioning horses.”

“The industry has responded with significant resources dedicated to aftercare, and so the UHC is poised to move to a new phase by focusing on serving more as a clearing house for education and options available to help at-risk and transitioning horses,” said AHC President Julie Broadway.  “The power of the coalition has long been its ability to promote and encourage industry collaboration, so it’s a natural evolution that we now embrace that role more fully given the programs offered by organizations such as Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, The Right Horse, ASPCA, EQUUS Foundation, and Thoroughbred Charities of America, and more locally through state horse councils and others.”

UHC Chair Kristen Leshney stated, “The UHC has been very successful in bringing attention to the issue of the unwanted horse, and it has served as a catalyst for aftercare programs at many of its member organizations. The new name and mission statement reflect the next phase of industry collaboration to help transition more horses into their next home.”

The UHC will refocus its services by redesigning its website as a single source to help horse owners learn about resources and options available to place horses in need of new homes. The website also will provide information to potential adoptees including how to adopt, best practices when adopting, places horse are available for adoption, and owning responsibly.

Julie Broadway

Then and Now

A Grooms Journey Part IV
by, Oscar Belliveau

I want to wish all of the readers and the people I know a most wonderful New Year! I hope that you find all of the joy, health and wellness that life can bring to you.

This is the continuation of my journey as a groom. I crossed the Saint Laurence River and slowly made my way towards the racetrack. I was struck by the beauty of Old Quebec with its narrow streets and the beautiful sights. I arrived there by mid afternoon and looked for the man that I knew from my hometown. He  was  surprised to see   there, especially  since I
should have been home going to school. His name was Ruffin Barrieau. He was a living legend for those of us that came from Moncton. He had me help him around the barn and he made sure that I ate a couple of meals a day. That wasn't enough for me, and at night I would be very hungry. It was a difficult time for me, to say the least. I think he intentionally made difficult for me because he didn't want me to stay he wanted me to return home, so he wasn’t going to encourage me to stay. But, I did have a strong will, and I didn't want to return. So, what wasIi to do? I had no real work, no money, no extra clothes, and it didn't look like I would be able to find a job there! What to do?

Well, since I didn’t want to return, I decide to go to a place called, Three Rivière , Quebec. I still had to be careful that the police didn't stop me, so one morning, after being in Quebec City for about two weeks, I hit the road. I looked at the map and walked towards the outskirts of Quebec and started hitchhiking again. The journey wasn't over yet! I had no money but no problem, it was time to go! A young mind thinks this way at times. It’s a good thing I didn't have to shave yet! He! He! Anyway, I left late in the morning. I had to walk a long time to get to the road that led to Trois Riviere. After starting to hitchhike the going was a bit slow. The road I was on had enough traffic, but not many people wanted to pick me up. By late afternoon I had gotten a few miles closer, but it looked like I wouldn't make it there that day, even though the drive would usually takes about 2 hours by car, it would take me much longer. As well, this was now September and it was getting darker earlier than before, and it was getting a bit colder, although I was lucky that it wasn't any colder as it could have been. In and around Quebec city, I have seen snowflakes the first week of September. Now, remember, I didn't have any money and so I couldn't buy any food! I made slow progress and it seemed like I wouldn’t make it there on this day. I was hungry and tired, and I was in a small village and there were some houses with cars parked next to them.

I was so tired that I just saw a car whose doors were unlocked, so I got in it and slept in the back seat. It was cold and I remember waking up a few times but I would return to sleep only to awaken a bit later. Being hungry didn’t help sleeping! So it was a long night, but I was safe for the time being. Fortunately, nobody came out and I slept okay. I would imagine that they’d have been surprised to find me in their car, but alas, I was fortunate in that regards. I woke up at 7 or 7:30 am and got out of the car and hit the road. I got to my destination a couple of hours later and it took me about a half hour to walk from the road to the racetrack, which was on the other side of the town.

Oscar Belliveau

When I got to the racetrack, in Three Rivers, there were some people that befriended me they me a tackroom to sleep in, which had a cot with some blankets and they gave me work to do helping around the barn. There were some grooms that came from the Maritimes that made sure that I ate everyday. I have forgotten their names, but I remain ever grateful to hem. It allowed me some space to begin to find myself. I didn't feel as lost and lonely as I had been feeling, which was a blessing.

I worked everyday cleaning stalls and helping around the barn, thus slowly I began to get used to my circumstances and things began to improve. I remember that there was a horse that was very ill. He had a virus that caused him to piss too much (swamp fever)! They paid me to clean his stall , and it was a terrible job. The smell was awful and I saw him die a bit each day! It took a few days before he passed, but it put my life in a better perspective. When we are young, we don't see death, and we don't really understand ourselves. Taking care of this horse helped to make me see that I had to keep moving. It was a feeling that was deep inside. I was lucky that the people that I had met were good and truly cared for me. We made a trip to Montreal (by car) to visit some of their friends, and I realised that it would be my next destination. The colder weather was going to come soon so Montreal was going to be my next stop! After spending about three weeks there one morning  we loaded the horses on a truck and we shipped out to Blue Bonnets. It was a new chapter in my life, and it would be an eventful one at that. There would be some difficult days ahead, to be sure, but it was not the same kind of difficulties. I had gained a foothold on my path, one that I have never stopped traveling on.

We shipped the stable to the Blue Bonnet racetrack and that in itself was quite a chore. As any horse person knows, shipping can be a real chore, especially when one gets to the track and the stalls are all filled with manure. The thoroughbred people hadn’t cleaned their stalls for quite a long time, or so it seemed. Gyps are seen by how they keep their horses, and they were in a class by themselves, or so it seemed to me. Even in my young age I understood that concept. After many trips with the wheelbarrow, we finally got the horses bedded down in their stalls. Now the prospect of finding a real job was my next goal. I did feel lost as a person and the unsettling feelings I felt had to be resolved.
To be continued…

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Reader Comments

Do most racing fans want to see horses go faster and not get tired. I don't think so. I loved the days when a sub two minute mile meant something. I loved when if a horse went too fast it would probably get tired and stop. Most of the short priced winners, such as at Yonkers Raceway and many other tracks are because of the speed favoring and "easier" handicapping due to the misconception that fans want to see faster races. If racing surfaces were slowed down, possibly with more "dirt" on them, probably more higher priced closers would win. Fans do not want the high percentage of favorites that we now have. I remember the days of horses that ran well on sloppy surfaces. This no longer happens because they are running on a thin layer of sand. Bring back the slow sloppy track surfaces. An added benefit to all of this is horses will probably have less injuries from not having to race so fast.

Stan Friedenburg
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