Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Anne M. Eberhardt

Beshear: Challenges Remain for Horse Industry

Former Kentucky governor addresses consignors, breeders at Feb. 2 symposium.

Steve Beshear, the former two-term governor of Kentucky whose run ended in December 2014, said the recent winter storm that dumped about 10 inches of snow in Lexington and twice that much in eastern parts of the state drove home the point he didn't have the same responsibilities.

"When that snowstorm hit, for the first time (in eight years) I got up that morning, and the only driveway I had to worry about was mine," Beshear said.

Beshear, no longer a public servant, has returned to the Stites & Harbison law firm. He was one of the speakers at the Feb. 2 Consignors and Commercial Breeders symposium at Keeneland given his interest in the horse industry.

"I want to thank breeders and consignors for continuing to make our horse industry the signature industry in Kentucky and around the world," Beshear said. "The horse industry has had a special emphasis in my life. I've trotted around the globe (for economic development purposes), and everywhere I went they knew about Kentucky."

Beshear had campaigned on a platform that included expanded gambling, with provisions to bolster the racing and breeding industry in Kentucky, but the effort repeatedly stalled. There is little talk now about casino legislation given implementation of historical race wagering by four tracks in the state and the fact Gov. Matt Bevin has no interest in pursuing the issue.

Kentucky has, however, managed to hold its own, in large part because of its role in the Thoroughbred breeding industry in the United States.

"The last eight years have had their share of challenges," Beshear said. "We went through the worst recession in our lifetime. But in a sense, change is opportunity. Central to that are the breeders and consignors. If you weren't in the business we wouldn't have any racing.

"The future looks bright for our industry but it has challenges, and one of them is (equine) medication. There are just as many opinions on what to do about that as there are people in the horse business. You should be a part of determining where the industry goes on that issue because it's very important."

The CBA is a member of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which supports federal legislation that would grant the United States Anti-Doping Agency oversight of equine medication policy, drug testing, and enforcement. The bill, which could get committee hearings this spring, deals only with racing.

Jamie Hayden, manager of industry initiatives for The Jockey Club, said the U.S. House of Representatives bill now has 21 co-sponsors. "We look forward to 2016 with even more support for this (legislation)," he said.

The Jockey Club continues to discuss the bill with other stakeholders. It is expected the Senate version will include racing breeds other than Thoroughbreds.