Speaking Dec. 7, officials from the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority and its Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit summarized initial results under HISA and outlined procedures of its Anti-Doping and Medication Control that is to begin Jan. 1.
Their comments came late Wednesday afternoon during the closing panel of the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program Global Symposium on Racing at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz.
Not addressed during the session was the legality of the act that authorized HISA following a Nov. 18 ruling from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that the act was facially unconstitutional. An appeal of that court decision, as well as other legal cases involving HISA working their way through the legal system, could be tied up in the courts for months. HISA has been legally opposed by groups that include some state racing commissions, tracks, and horsemen organizations.
If the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stands, it would not go into effect until Jan. 10 at the earliest, after the planned implementation of the ADMC Program at the start of the year.
That new program will provide uniform U.S. medication rules in Thoroughbred racing with regard to anti-doping, controlled medications, equine testing and investigation, and standards for laboratories and arbitration procedures.
Not all welcome HISA and HIWU oversight. The Association of Racing Commissioners International issued a press release Wednesday before the afternoon panel, saying its board had unanimously requested the Federal Trade Commission delay final action on HISA's proposed ADMC rules until the constitutional questions being litigated are resolved. The organization's request came due to "facing imminent regulatory chaos," the release said.
"The choice for the FTC is clear, state rules are better than no rules during this time of legal uncertainty," said Ed Martin, ARCI president.
During Wednesday's panel, HISA officials made no reference to alternative plans if the unconstitutionality of the federal bill is upheld. They largely provided an informational session on HIWU rules.
Concerning medication testing, "A significant change is the automatic disqualification of results for all adverse findings and a significant change for the industry and the great deterrence," HIWU executive director Ben Mosier said. "We have two panels that we're building currently to hear and adjudicate."
"All hearings will be within 60 days across the board. And then the decisions will be within 14 days after that," he added.
Kate Mittelstadt, chief of operations for HIWU, said the organization intends to have staff on-site at tracks for the first days of racing under the RMTC program to oversee test-barn sample collection. A paperless system, implemented with the support of Incompass Solutions, will be in test barns, she said.
HIWU will utilize Racing Medication and Testing Consortium-accredited laboratories long used in many racing jurisdictions, though under modifications "for 2023 to begin to meet the enhanced needs of HIWU," HIWU chief of science Dr. Mary Scollay said. A double-blind program will be utilized, she added.
HIWU has begun advising horsemen and racetrack veterinarians of its use of detection time of medications rather than the long-used practice of withdrawal time.
"We are committed to making sure that this message is delivered... there's absolutely no fun in catching a dolphin in the shark net," Scollay said.
Medications have been placed in several categories, with the most significant being banned substances, which carry penalties Scollay described as severe.
Earlier, HISA officials showed slides related to riding crop violations and voided-claim instances since the Racetrack Safety Program went into effect July 1.
The ADMC program seemingly presents a more daunting test for implementation, but Scollay said she is excited for it to begin.
"So today's take-home message: uniformity we all wanted. We wanted it for years, and this is our chance. It's good for the horses; it's good for the humans; It's good for the industry; it's good for our public persona," she said.
Wednesday's closing HISA panel was preceded by two others: "Horseplayer Roundtable: What Does the Core Customer Really Want?" and the "TPA Mark Kaufman Workshop—What the Hashtag? Exploring the Importance of Social Media in Horse Racing."
The subject of HISA also came up during the horseplayer panel, with bettor and horse owner Dr. Marshall Gramm, a professor at Rhodes College, saying, "We don't want to pay for this. There's just a big fear...this is going to be passed on to players."
This fall, HISA informed state racing commissions it was seeking a total of $72.5 million for its operations in 2023, with $58.1 million to fund HIWU. Some racing commissions have elected to pass the responsibility for assuming the assessments on to racetracks, who, in turn, could look for ways to secure funds.
Gramm and fellow panelist Pete Fornatale, co-founder of In the Money Media Network, described a wishlist to racetrack executives of what they would like to see for horseplayers. Those desires include improving pricing and pricing equity amid competition for wagering dollars, the accurate timing of races, increased data access, improvements in tote technology and television presentation, low-takeout win-wagering options, and more information, such as track renovation updates.
Over the last 20 years, handle is down 46% when adjusted for inflation, Gramm said. Some tracks "spend more time lobbying the state than they do worrying about their customer base, than worrying about pricing, and worrying about things they do in the marketplace," he said.
The horseplayer panel followed a discussion in which five social media coordinators or managers described using social media platforms to reach younger audiences and those people who might not otherwise be familiar with horse racing.
Dan Tordjman, manager of partnerships and sponsorships for America's Best Racing, noted how ABR and Breeders' Cup teamed with 11 influencers to promote the Breeders' Cup on social media. According to Tordjman, via these influencers, they had a reach of 29.5 million. They hope these individuals will show renewed interest in horse racing when these influences remark on the sport again.
"So you bring them back over and over again, and you build on it some familiarity with their audiences... So whenever their audience sees horse racing down in the feed, they're like, 'Oh, cool, they're back at a horse race,'" Tordjman told symposium attendees.