Drug Consortium Works on Plan to Fund Initiatives

With a goal to raise $2 million to $3 million a year to support its initiatives, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium is looking at a mechanism that would raise money from horsemen and racetracks based on the top four finishers in each race.

There are several ideas on the table, and nothing is written in stone, said Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the consortium. Whatever system is agreed upon would be implemented over time, he said.

Waterman, a guest speaker at a medication workshop July 10 during the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association summer convention in Cleveland, Ohio, outlined an earlier plan whereby fees would be assessed to horsemen based on the first four finishers in each race, and then matched by racetracks. It would have been $3 per horse at tracks with a median purse of $8,999 or less, and $5 per horse at tracks with a median purse of $9,000 or more.

For Thoroughbred starters alone, that formula would have raised almost $900,000 in 2002. The problem, Waterman said, is that a racetrack like Penn National Race Course, which is open for live racing year round, would pay more than $22,000 a year, while a track like Keeneland, open only two months, would pay less than $6,000. Average daily purses at Keeneland are almost nine times those at Penn National.

"I don't really have to tell you how inequitable that is from a racetrack standpoint," Waterman said.

A revised formula uses the amount that would be raised by horsemen -- almost $900,000 -- divided by total average daily purses at all racetracks. That figure -- roughly 7%--is then applied to each track's daily average purse outlay. Penn National, with a daily average of $70,000, would pay $4,915 a year, and Keeneland, with a daily average of $614,000, would pay almost $43,000.

At Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park in Florida, $3 is deducted from the purse earned by the top four finishers in each race. The tracks then match the amount. Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA, said the program is voluntary but no one has opted out.

"To this day, after one year, we're still at 100% participation," Stirling said. "It's not hard to do. We could probably bump up to a higher number in Florida, maybe $5 or $6, and probably not hear anything about it. In the interim, this is a good way to get it done."

Florida has contributed about $70,000 to the consortium in one year, Waterman said.

The consortium is scheduled to meet July 15 to discuss possible funding mechanisms and other matters, including the possible admission of Harness Tracks of America and the United States Trotting Association as members.

Waterman said the consortium has about $500,000 of its 2003 budget dedicated to research grants. The recipients will be announced this fall, he said.