Industry Targets Drug Testing, Tax Reductions

The watchword at this year's Jockey Club Round Table was "focus," and perhaps not by coincidence, the event, held Sunday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., ended about 25 minutes early. The initiatives planned by the Thoroughbred industry, however, could take some time to accomplish.

At this year's gathering of industry leaders, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force officially released its findings, and the NTRA also announced plans to lobby for tax reductions on pari-mutuel handle on a state-by-state basis. Medication and taxation issues figure at the forefront of industry activities, and officials on Sunday said the goals are reasonable.

With its report having been released, the drug testing task force now must work on recommendations in the report, one of which is formation of a national organization to implement improvements in testing procedures and provide leadership and communications related to testing. What the organization will look like, and how it will be funded, remains to be seen.

Alan Foreman, an NTRA board member who serves on the task force, said the task could prove difficult because individual agendas must be kept out of the process. Jim Gallagher, the task force's executive director, said he expects to be involved in the process of putting the report to work.

"If you're putting forth something, you must stay with it," Gallagher said. "We'll start with individual groups and develop strategies. Now we get the picks and shovels out."

Paul Oreffice, retired chairman of Dow Chemical Co. and a member of the task force, said that, in effect, there are more 30 drug-testing programs in the United States because each jurisdiction operates unto itself. "This simply doesn't work when you have horses competing all over the country," he said. "The industry must form a national organization that will take a leadership role to promote best practices for disclosure of violations."

NTRA commissioner Tim Smith said the NTRA probably would have a role in any new organization, at least as a "catalyst," but that a "broader set of players" is needed to get it off the ground. Officials already are discussing possible funding methods to facilitate the task force report and the panel that would implement it.

In regard to regulation, the NTRA is working with about five states-Florida is one of them-to enact legislation that would shift the tax on gross handle to a tax on net revenue. Such legislation would bring the pari-mutuel in line with other industries. If successful, officials said racetrack revenue and purses would increase, and patrons would get more value on wagers.

In other news, The Jockey Club announced a corporate restructuring that will key on technology and a streamlining of how the racing and breeding industries do business. It's sort of a takeoff on a partnership between the NTRA and IBM Global Services that never quite got off the ground.

Under the plan, McKinnie Systems will be renamed and deliver the services. David Haydon, executive vice president of operations for Equibase, will head the new company. James Coil will serve as vice president of engineering, and David Ruffra as executive vice president of sales and marketing. Bobby Burch will serve as president of a new subsidiary now known as the Jockey Club's Information Technology Group.

Alan Marzelli will chair both companies, and Jim Liao, currently president of Christiansen Capital Advisors, will join The Jockey Club as executive vice president of finance and administration, a position now held by Marzelli.

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