By Tom LaMarra and Frank Angst
Keeneland said Oct. 8 it officially supports the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 and has joined the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, a group that also supports the federal legislation.
Keeneland earlier this year issued a statement supporting national uniformity in medication rules but stopped short of endorsing the federal bill, which would grant the United States Anti-Doping Agency oversight of equine medication policy, testing, and enforcement.
“In a year that our industry and all of our participants are enjoying incredible excitement in racing, medication issues continue to dominate discussions,” Keeneland said in a statement. “It is evident that a collective resolution to medication issues is essential for racing to continue the momentum we are experiencing in this historic year.
“With the lack of action among many state jurisdictions with regard to uniform medication policies, it is apparent that federal legislation is necessary to provide our industry with a level playing field across all borders as well as adequate testing measures to ensure the integrity of our sport.”
Progress or lack thereof on state-by-state adoption of the National Uniform Medication Program has been debated for more than a year. Some racing industry stakeholders believe much has been accomplished in a little more than two years; others claim it’s nowhere near enough.
Keeneland president Bill Thomason acknowledged that the industry has made important strides in recent years. But he believes the coalition’s efforts can build on those accomplishments.
“We’ve worked with all of the industry groups and although we’ve made progress, which everyone keeps acknowledging, it needs to be done with a sense of urgency,” Thomason said. “We need to build on all of the things that have been done and we’ve come to believe the most effective way of doing that is through the federal legislative route.”
Keeneland, of course, also offers world-class Thoroughbred sales.
“We have listened to our racing patrons and horsemen, all of whom deserve uniform standards across all jurisdictions which provide a product to our fans that will allow the sport to grow and thrive,” the Keeneland statement said. “As the world’s leading marketplace for Thoroughbreds, we have also listened to our sales clients, domestically and internationally, and this legislation is essential to providing the uniformity and transparency that our consignors and buyers want and deserve.”
Thomason noted that integrity on the racing end impacts the overall industry.
“It’s an industry issue, not just a racing issue. For the entire Thoroughbred industry, breeding and racing, the integrity of our breed and the industry has to be beyond reproach,” Thomason said. “We are an entity that will always take a long-term view and protect the long-term growth of our industry. It’s all we do, all we care about.”
The coalition welcomed Keeneland’s support.
“The addition of one of the nation’s premier Thoroughbred race tracks to the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity is another welcome demonstration of the industry’s growing commitment to uniformity,” the group said in a statement. “Our shared goal is to ensure that we have a strong, credible medication oversight system that further ensures the safety of our athletes and enhances the confidence of our participants and fans.”
Keeneland also said there have been positive effects as a result of constructive dialogue that resulted from the filing of the federal legislation, which was introduced earlier this year but hasn’t been scheduled for a committee hearing in Congress.
Other tracks that have joined the coalition are Arapahoe Park; Indiana Grand Racing & Casino and Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, which are owned by Centaur Gaming; and the Jeff Gural-operated Meadowlands, Tioga Park, and Vernon Downs.