Younger Set: 'Time for Change' in Industry

Members of Vision 20/20 see the industry's strengths and weaknesses.

Carrie Brogden of Machmer Hall in Central Kentucky called the Thoroughbred industry her “greatest strength and greatest weakness.”

It’s also an accurate description of Thoroughbred racing and breeding at large in a roundabout way: The business has strengths, but they are allowed to be consistently undercut by its weaknesses.

Brogden, a Thoroughbred owner/breeder, is a member of Vision 20/20, a group of younger industry participants in Kentucky. They are learning how the industry works, discussing its problems, and voicing concerns.

Brogden and a few other members of Vision 20/20 got a chance to tell state regulators how they feel April 14 during the Association of Racing Commissioners International annual meeting in Lexington. The officials got an earful on everything from transparency to equine medication to marketing.

“It’s time for innovation, it’s time for change,” said Anna Studenny of Castleton Lyons in Central Kentucky. “This industry is not dead (if you ask) the people in it. No one is giving up hope. They are hoping to make a living in (the business) for years to come.

“This isn’t a job for any of us. It’s a life.”

Vision 20/20, which is affiliated with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, now has about 60 members. About 40 under-40 types began meeting in earnest in early January.

Brogden touched on the transparency issue as it relates to information recently released by The Jockey Club concerning equine injury data. Only the number of catastrophic injuries per 1,000 starts in the United States was released.

The Jockey Club is compiling the information at no cost. It can’t force a racetrack to participate, and under the contract, it can’t release individual track information.

“Who, what, where, when, and why is what I want to know,” Brogden said. “Data is not being shared and released. Saturday horses are a very small part of the total population. This is truly a typical roadblock of fear in our industry. We need to embrace the power of knowledge.

“Since we don’t know (all of) the data, we don’t know where the problem is.”

More data will be released in late June during the next equine health and welfare summit in Lexington. But track-specific data—and perhaps other statistics that could be used for making breeding decisions, for example—probably won’t be released.

Chauncey Morris, a Keeneland sales associate, said his vision of 20/20 is being able to wager on any race from anywhere 24 hours a day. He said the industry must make a choice: Cooperate to make that possible, or continue to give away business to illegal bookmakers.

Morris also said greater cooperation from government is needed when it considers public policy related to horse racing.

Studenny said the most noticeable thing to come out of several months of meetings is “uncertainty” among participants. Comprehending the Thoroughbred industry isn’t easy.

“For our first two (meetings), we spent hours discussing every problem we’re facing,” she said. “I’m really not sure what to think about the future of horse racing.”