Task Force To Study Sales Practices Announced

In a press release issued Friday, The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association said it "will take a lead role" in the formation of a task force to study practices involving Thoroughbred sales as suggested by the Alliance for Industry Reform (AIR). Satish Sanan of Padua Stables is the driving force behind AIR, which has called for the implementation of a code of ethics and other standards that would govern the sales industry.

"I feel very good about it; we've created a lot of awareness in the industry that something like this is needed," said Sanan of TOBA's announcement. "This was not a personal initiative of mine or Padua's. I wanted it to be an industry initiative. We've gotten all the key players in the industry involved, which was my objective."

TOBA said it is being joined in the task force effort by Fasig-Tipton, Keeneland, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and The Jockey Club. Those groups will collectively recruit others in the industry to be involved with the task force.

"We welcome the opportunity to participate in discussions to address these issues facing our industry," said Dan Metzger, president of TOBA. "It is important that we have a thorough and careful dialogue."

The release said the task force will look at such issues as veterinary and ownership disclosures and undisclosed dual agency commissions.

According to Sanan, the task force will have 15 to 20 members, including himself. Bloodstock agents and trainers also will be represented. He said subcommittees would probably be formed to deal with individual issues such as dual agency and veterinary concerns.

Even though their business practices will be scrutinized closely as a result of the task force's formation, Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland officials expressed enthusiasm for the effort.

"I think everything needs to be explored to see exactly what we can do to fix anything that may be broken," Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson said Friday. "We need to address such issues as whether we need more veterinary announcements and ownership disclosure. Hopefully, at the end of the day, we'll have a better place to work."

Said Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell: "We fully support TOBA in all their efforts to uphold the integrity of the sales process."

The TOBA announcement followed a conference call held on Aug. 2 that included Sanan, sale company representatives, and industry leaders. Among the participants were Metzger, Gary Biszantz, Dinny Phipps, D.G. Van Clief Jr., Nick Nicholson, Robertson, and Russell.

The TOBA release said the task force hopes to hold its first meeting by early September.

"This is not a task force that will just meet and meet and meet," Russell said. "It will sit down, review the facts, and come to a decision sooner rather than later. We want to have something in place by the end of the year so people will know what to do for next year."

AIR was introduced to the industry in a letter -- signed by about 50 owners, consignors, breeders, agents, and trainers -- published in industry publications the week of July 12.

Sanan plans to maintain the AIR Web site and keep the organization active at least until "the task force has been established and we know it is moving in the right direction."

According to Sanan, "The goal is a simple, practical code of ethics; I think common sense will prevail here."