Eric Hamelback (left) addresses panel members Tom DiPasquale, Matt Iuliano, and Ed Martin at the ARCI conference April 4

Eric Hamelback (left) addresses panel members Tom DiPasquale, Matt Iuliano, and Ed Martin at the ARCI conference April 4

Frank Angst

Panel Discusses When Racing Regulation Should Begin

Regulators advised the first workout could be a good starting point.

When representatives of The Jockey Club and the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association agreed that regulating racehorses should begin when a Thoroughbred has its first recorded workout, the moment wasn't lost on at least one attendee.

Association of Racing Commissioners International president Ed Martin interjected to recognize the consensus between two sometimes fractious parties.

"I don't know the last time we've heard the National HBPA and the Jockey Club agree on anything," Martin said with a smile during the discussion on when the horse, and individuals behind the horse, should come under regulatory authority. The discussion was part of the ARCI annual conference on equine welfare and racing integrity April 4 in Hot Springs, Ark.

With the sport calling for added out-of-competition testing, and regulators attempting to meet that challenge, Martin said he thought it would be worthwhile to discuss when regulation should begin.

Matt Iuliano, executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club, acknowledged it's an important question.

"It's an out-of-competition testing question more than anything, and the question is, 'When do you throw a blanket over the horse? When does the regulatory authority then paint a target on that horse?'" Iuliano said.

Iuliano advocated starting the process with a horse's first workout. Because a significant percentage of horses never race, he said, it would be inefficient to regulate horses who aren't ever going to start. He noted that a high percentage of horses who record a workout ultimately race.

National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback supported the idea, noting the large population of horses in the United States makes it difficult to put a different standard in place.

"As Matt pointed out, when a horse participates in a workout, there is an intent that that horse is going to be a racehorse," Hamelback said.

For background, Iuliano noted that Britain has been looking to establish jurisdiction over a horse at an earlier point in its life. 

"To that end, they've approached Weatherbys, which is the breed registration authority in Great Britain and Ireland, seeking them to impose a registration requirement," Iuliano said. "It's in the discussion phase—I don't want to speak in definite—but it's one of the ideas that's been tossed out."

Iuliano said early registration would result in horses being submitted to the out-of-competition testing protocol Great Britain already has in place.

Also participating on the panel was Tom DiPasquale, executive director of the Minnesota Racing Commission. He noted that, realistically, a horse who trains in Illinois for a first start in Minnesota is likely not going to face an out-of-competition test from Minnesota until he arrives at a track in the state.

Beyond that, DiPasquale said state laws in Minnesota will need to be changed to allow regulators more freedom in out-of-competition testing, and more funding is needed.

"One of the things that concerns me is if we're given a charter that we don't have the funding and resources to do anything about," DiPasquale said. "If there's holes in our net, you're going to be able to escape."