USTA Approves Canadian Currency Conversion

After years of debate, the United States Trotting Association will convert Canadian earnings by American-based horses to U.S. dollars effective Jan. 1, 2002. Meanwhile, the Thoroughbred industry continues to haggle over the issue.

The USTA executive committee on Oct. 27 upheld the decision by its full board of directors to convert Canadian currency. Standardbred Canada, that country's record-keeping body for harness racing, had requested that the USTA issue a one-year moratorium on the matter, while Harness Tracks of America pushed for the change.

"This is strictly a question of the accuracy of record-keeping," HTA executive vice president Stan Bergstein said. "There's not reason in the world the industry should do anything that distorts or perverts it's record-keeping. It's not an issue of sovereignty."

For Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing, Canadian earnings are currently reported at face value and added to a horse's earnings record. But an American horse's owner gets the converted amount -- currently about 40% less -- deposited into his or her bank account.

The USTA has decided to convert all Canadian earnings in 2002 according to the rate in effect Dec. 31, 2001 as long as there isn't more than a 25% shift in the rate. If so, there could be an adjustment. Canadian purses earned prior to 2002 will be reported at par, and no records will be changed.

Bergstein said the conversion can benefit Canadian horses. For example, a pacer or trotter with $25,000 on its card could be eligible for a "non-winners of $20,000 lifetime" event at a track in the U.S.

Carl Hamilton, chairman and president of The Jockey Club Information Systems, said the Thoroughbred industry continues to discuss the pros and cons of currency conversion.

"The Jockey Club companies are working through the Data Standards Committee to gather input from the many factions of the industry, identify the implications regarding the issue, and determine if there is a consensus in the industry about how to proceed," Hamilton said.

For its part, Standardbred Canada has no intention to convert Canadian earnings to U.S. currency or to maintain separate records.