Ed Martin, president and CEO of the Association of Racing Commissioners International
In an ongoing dialogue about the efficacy and feasibility of Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, levied the following response to what he referred to as an “attack” by Jim Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club.
Earlier pieces of the dialogue are available here: Ed Martin’s Letter to the Editor in TDN, “HISA Smack Down”; and Gagliano’s response, “Racing ‘Cannot Survive If History Keeps Repeating Itself.’”
Remember the scene from the “Wizard of Oz” when Toto yanked back the curtain to reveal Professor Marvel frantically pulling the levers to maintain the illusion of the Great and Powerful Oz? That’s how Jim Gagliano’s statement about the ARCI and HISA hit me.
Most amazing is it comes at a time when HISA/HIWU is earnestly negotiating the use of the status quo: the same state testing labs and commission personnel in order to enforce new HISA rules that are remarkably similar to the ARCI Model Rules largely in place in most places.
Yes there are differences and some enhancements, but let’s face it the new testing regime appears to be no better than TOBA testing already performed in most jurisdictions. But nobody is supposed to know that or a host of other things because HISA and HIWU have insisted on non-disclosure agreements.
In today’s politics too many demonize as “racist” or “socialist” those who ask questions or suggest a different path. It’s sad those tactics are being used in racing because those questions or suggestions are about how to best improve upon and move past the status quo. But for some not steeped in the details, such sloganeering can be effective.
George Strawbridge once told me after attending an ARCI conference that he thought the group was “the answer.” I laughed and responded that we can’t mandate anything and those in the industry who could empower the group as a central regulatory entity would never work to do so because we are truly independent and our members are publicly accountable. Yet we are attacked for not doing what we were never empowered to do.
In Jim’s world I am working against HISA despite spending countless hours in 2021 helping HISA staff understand implementation obstacles to be overcome in the states, offering to assist when USADA bailed, advocating for federal money when the opportunity presented itself, and providing over $1 million in data services to facilitate the registration of covered persons.
I am not pro or anti HISA. I don’t have a horse in this race but I am pro reality and against making a mess. The ARCI has not engaged in the legal challenges but did ask the FTC to avoid total regulatory chaos by setting aside HISA’s proposed ADMC rules given recent court rulings. To create confusion and expose enforcement actions by either HISA or a State to being struck down was not a risk we thought acceptable for this industry or the public.
In July of 2019, before Senator McConnell’s HISA bill was even drafted, the ARCI quietly proposed to the Jockey Club that they use their existing private regulatory authority as the Thoroughbred breed registry empowered by commission rules to impose equine welfare requirements and conditions for registration. This was a way to deal with the jurisdictional limitations of state racing commissions without waiting for legislative actions. The Jockey Club had it within its existing power to act, yet it did not.
As to HISA, they have been totally within their rights to build programs as they see fit. Personally I think they have made things more difficult for themselves and costly for the tracks. If HISA is to stand and programs remain as envisioned, it would be foolhardy to not take an opportunity to get federal funding to mitigate the financial costs. Yet Jim argued against this need and industry lobbyists obviously didn’t seek it from a Congress spending $1.7 TRILLION that has found money for all sorts of things like $50 million to promote tourism in Tunisia.
Federal funding would mean transparency, accountability, independent programmatic and financial audits. Perhaps that’s not wanted by those who gave birth to this entity despite Ms. Lazarus’s claims that transparency and accountability are HISA values. Perhaps she cannot act independently or is constrained by those who have lent HISA money to operate.
Mr. Gagliano is rightly the “Father of HISA” and his overly defensive posture does little to advance the cause of making this work. It’s easy to shoot a messenger who says things many quietly think.
Alan Marzelli, Jim’s predecessor, once counseled me that progress only happens if everyone pulls in the same direction. That was when the Jockey Club used to function as Thoroughbred racing’s consensus builder. Turning the current situation into a win may mean abandoning the “us vs. them” tactic which equates hammering a square peg into a round hole and the personal and organizational attacks on those who want the same thing.