There are certain things one should not do. In addition to tugging on Superman’s cape, spitting into the wind, and pulling the mask off the Lone Ranger, you should never, ever challenge me publicly to put way too much thought into something.
As a preface: Bloodstock agent Bradley Weisbord publicly asserted his desire for racing to associate itself more with Barstool Sports, a controversial entity that has, in my opinion, been rightfully skewered by much of the racing community for its attitudes and actions towards women. I voiced my opinion in response to a comment by photographer Susie Raisher, and this is how Bradley reacted.
Have you seen the metrics? Maybe the higher ups should hire you. Find new gamblers. Put fans in the seats of racetracks. Good luck!
— Bradley Weisbord (@BradWeisbord) December 15, 2019
I’ve never met Bradley Weisbord in person. I’m not going to make any assertions about his motives or any of his thoughts or actions. This column is strictly business.
You see, I’ve been challenged, and I am going to rise to meet it. Here’s how, as Racing Czar, I would improve horse racing from the top down, in 50 easy steps.
1) Promote from within to account for many resignations across racing that would undoubtedly take place following the announcement of my appointment.
2) Any remaining spots would be filled by passionate young men and women who want to make a difference in the game. Their jobs will be to come up with innovative ideas and how to implement them for the sport’s long-term survival.
3) No idea is a bad idea, except for the Breeders’ Cup Derby, which is the worst idea in the history of the sport.
4) If we’re still short on people, we’re cloning Tom Durkin like Dolly the Sheep as many times as needed.
5) The horse comes first. We’re breeding to race, not racing to breed, and as such, breeders need to get with the program.
6) All, ahem, “breeze” portions of 2-year-old sales are eliminated. You want to gallop horses on the track? That’s fine. The days of an ability to “breeze” an eighth of a mile as a 2-year-old being more important, in some circles, than that horse going nine or 10 furlongs as a 4-year-old or 5-year-old are over.
7) Racing needs its stars to run for as long as possible. To promote this, any male horse retired to breed as a 4-year-old may only be bred to 50 mares. If stallion owners want to jack up stud fees to compensate for the restriction, that’s fine. We’ll let the market determine if it works.
8) We’re commissioning a long-term study on race-day medications by an impartial, unbiased group of equine scientists and medical professionals.
9) Whatever that study says, we’re going with, and all jurisdictions will follow the same rules.
10) If you’re a horseman and your horse needs Lasix or another medication to treat a legitimate issue, your horse goes on a list maintained by the neutral party and gets re-evaluated every three months.
11) If your horse needs Lasix or another medication because you think it’s a performance-enhancer, you can go train somewhere else.
12) Our medication policies have punishments with teeth.
13) Violations get grouped into “minor” and “major” infractions. Minor infractions (think overages by a few picograms or nanograms) are met by increasing fines, with the fifth violation and those beyond that being met with 30-day suspensions.
14) Major infractions are met by suspensions of 60 days, six months, and one year, followed by a lifetime ban for the fourth.
15) A national board of vets and horsemen get to decide which substances fit into which categories, and the standards apply to all tracks as part of the NTRA’s safety accreditation program.
16) The safety accreditation program also contains regulations pertaining to fouls and disqualifications, which will be drafted on the advice of jockeys, trainers, and stewards.
17) These regulations will apply across the board. The inquiry, “what is a foul that merits disqualification?,” is no longer a trick question. Every rider and steward at every track in the country now plays by and officiates the same rules, and bettors know for sure when a DQ could likely occur.
18) The same rules apply to all races regardless of status. We’re not making exceptions in Grade 1 events just because more eyes are on us.
19) If a track chooses not to comply with rules pertaining to overages and disqualifications, not only will it not earn safety accreditation, but it sacrifices graded status for all of its stakes races as well.
20) Optics matter.
21) Any trainer found to have directly sent a thoroughbred from a track to the slaughter pipeline gets booted from the game. No exceptions.
22) No organization whose stated goal is to end horse racing gets to help make decisions within the sport.
23) If organizations outlined in step 22 have strategies to hit racing hard, we hit back harder. The days of the sport being a punching bag for well-coordinated attack campaigns are done.
24) It is made clear horses on racetracks get far better care than cats and dogs at shelters run by one group that euthanizes thousands of them on a yearly basis.
25) It is also made clear that the head of a prominent organization striving for the extinction of horses had no problem profiting off of animals when he was putting the end products of them on pizzas sold at his restaurants.
26) We’re reopening the hill at Santa Anita.
27) We’re reopening Hialeah Park, by any means necessary.
28) We’re issuing moratoriums on the extension of meets at Saratoga and Del Mar. Boutique meets are boutique meets for a reason.
29) Tracks will work together to coordinate post times whenever it is feasible to do so. Instead of fighting each other for the same gambling dollars, we’re creating more opportunities for churn.
30) “Post time” means “post time.” Barring emergency situations (waiting for ambulances, technical/starting gate malfunctions, etc.), every effort must be made to run races at their listed times.
31) Penalties for post time violations will be mandatory donations to thoroughbred aftercare foundations. If you want to set up a day where you intentionally drag to set up donations for PR purposes, that’s just fine.
32) Fans that go to the track will receive vouchers at the gate. Grandstand admission is good for a $5 voucher. Clubhouse admission is good for a $10 voucher.
33) These vouchers are good for wagering only and cannot be cashed out. If a few first-time track-goers make money with their first bets, we’re convincing them to bet their winnings back, stay involved in the sport, and, most importantly to the future of the game, come back with their friends.
34) We’re optimizing the betting experience to make it easier for new players to understand what’s going on. If racing is marketed as the original fantasy sport, with a new draft taking place every 30 minutes, how much easier is that to understand than a set of past performances that, to a racing neophyte, may as well be Egyptian hieroglyphics?
35) We’re setting national standards for takeout and breakage. No track will institute rates of greater than 18% on win-place-show bets or 20% on exotics.
36) Tracks will be encouraged to find new wagers to try. Not all of them will work (hi, Horse Racing Roulette!), but some will (the low-takeout Stronach 5 is good, clean fun, for instance). We’re going to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.
37) Transparency is key. The more people trust our product, the more they’ll trust betting on it.
38) Partnerships in owning horses are fun. Not knowing how much of each horse is owned by which stakeholder is grating. Those numbers get published.
39) Reasons for trainer changes get published (Runhappy’s page would have been positively fascinating).
40) Replays of each race run around the country are made available at the end of each racing day to all fans, without restrictions.
41) Equibase data is made available to any individuals who want to use it, for a small annual fee. This prevents a repeat of the Handycapper saga and allows passionate fans another way to explore the sport.
42) Corporations are not individuals.
43) We will market the sport with both respect for the customer and enthusiasm that, as of now, is usually only reserved for big days.
44) Those big days will market horses and the humans around them above all else. Music and fashion can play secondary roles, but all marketing materials will have at least one horse in them.
45) Horse emojis do not count as horses within those marketing materials.
46) If and when a horse breaks down, we will be honest, forthright, and not hold back details.
47) If there are problems with breakdowns, we will find solutions, not scapegoats.
48) We will effectively police ourselves so that government officials with lobbyists in their ears have as little reason as possible to attack the business.
49) We will foster environments where healthy debate, constructive criticism, and hearty competition are welcome and encouraged. Racing is, above all else, a pari-mutuel game where bettors compete with one another for money in the pools.
50) We will not foster environments where those who degrade certain parts of the population can spread their beliefs to others, nor ones where those opinions are valued more than those of people who have spent years in the business.
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If anyone wants to discuss any of this with me, you’re welcome to do so. My Twitter DM’s are open, and the “contact” feature of my site sends messages straight to my email. I read everything that comes through, and I respond to an awful lot of it.