The Executive Committee of Harness Tracks of America (HTA) has voted to recommend to its Board of Directors that it support the recently announced call by the outgoing and incoming chairmen of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) for a “five-year phase-out” of equine medication in horse racing in order to bring the United States “in line with what is going on in other parts of world.”
The Executive Committee of HTA agreed that such a proposal is worthy of further discussion within both the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries in an effort to better serve the health and welfare of the equine athlete, maintain and improve the integrity and image of both sports, and to boost the long-term interests of the overall racing industry. These goals would benefit all industry stakeholders, from breeders and owners, to racing associations and the betting public.
HTA President Paul Fontaine of Plainridge Racecourse stated that, “Outgoing RCI Chairman Dan Hartman and incoming Chairman Willie Koester say they want their organization to lead the way into a bright new future for horse racing. HTA’s Executive Committee feels it’s an effort worthy of serious discussion, and as such, we will further refine our discussion and bring to our Board of Directors the idea of throwing our support behind it in any way we can.”
In remarks made at the March 28 RCI Annual Meeting held in New Orleans, Hartman noted that a five-year plan would give industry stakeholders time to make the necessary practical and regulatory adjustments to effect the change. New RCI Chairman Willie Koester of the Ohio State Racing Commission agreed with Hartman’s proposal.
The HTA Executive Committee acknowledges it will require a substantial effort from all facets of the industry, building on the work already in place by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) to form a consensus on policies and improve drug testing practices. “Hopefully this will act as the start of a real dialogue on tackling this issue,” Fontaine added.