Officials with at least one horsemen's group believe the racing industry would be best served by implementing national model rules for licensees, including trainers.
Regulators, under the banners of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association, have compiled a laundry list of model rules over the years, though not all of them have been adopted by each racing jurisdiction. With many racing states having adopted model rules for race-day medication and drug-testing, some believe it's time to address other less controversial areas.
"It seems we've already tackled the hard part for regulators and stakeholders," Remi Bellocq, chief executive officer of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said during the recent National Council of Legislators from Gaming States meeting in Boston. "It's time to dust off the model rules."
Bellocq called for a national standard for licensing of trainers, who don't have to pass the same test or meet the same qualifications in each jurisdiction. Bellocq said the "time has come to raise the playing field for licensees" and noted some trainers are finding success with "a vet and a lawyer" rather than horse knowledge and solid conditioning methods.
The RCI model rule for trainers requires applicants not previously licensed to submit to a written examination and oral exam, and to demonstrate practical skills at the barn. A previously licensed trainer, however, may only have to produce the license when he or she goes to another state.
"It's pretty slipshod," Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA and a former trainer, said in follow-up comments. "Everybody is reciprocal once you have a license in one state. There should be a structured test for trainers."
Stirling said he addressed the issue of trainer standards and licensing at the RCI convention earlier this year. "It was like a hot potato," he said. "They asked me if all trainers are qualified, and I said, 'No.' The majority is OK, but some people shouldn't be trainers. Maybe they should first have a couple of years working with horses or being an assistant trainer."
Bellocq and Stirling both said the Groom Elite Program now being offered in many racing states would be a good starting point. Stirling said the program and related testing is thorough enough to be used for trainers.
Bellocq suggested 80% of the RCI model rules for licensees could be standardized nationally. "There is good and bad policy implemented for the right or wrong reasons," he said of the current situation in racing states.