Equine welfare and racetrack safety are two of the prominent topics on the agenda for the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program's 46th annual Global Symposium on Racing Dec. 9-11 at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz.
The Symposium, held since 1974, attracts attendees from a broad range of racing and casino interests to hear discussion on issues affecting the pari-mutuel and gaming industries. The largest racing industry conference in the world, according to the university, its speakers and panel sessions feature many industry leaders.
Following Monday's conference-opening National Horseplayers Championship Contest Workshop, two active days of seminars are scheduled, with "Horse Racing's Social License to Operate" and "Racing's Safety and Welfare Initiatives" part of sessions Tuesday morning. Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, who operates Racing Matters, speaks at the former session. Dr. Dionne Benson, Jill Byrne, Dan Fick, and Alan Foreman discuss safety reforms at tracks during the latter.
Benson is chief veterinary officer at The Stronach Group; Byrne is vice president of racing operations at Colonial Downs; Fick is an accredited steward and board chairman at Racing Officials Accreditation Program; and Foreman is chairman and CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
Afternoon sessions include "Continuing the Quest for the Safest Racing Surface: The Natural Racing Surface," hosted by radio host Steve Byk with insights from three industry experts, and its companion discussion "Continuing the Quest for the Safest Racing Surface: Taking Another Look at Synthetic Surfaces," with Byk joined by panelists Michael Dickinson, president of Tapeta Footings, and Irwin Driedger, former director of Thoroughbred racing surfaces at Woodbine.
Other Tuesday seminars include "Changing the Marketing Paradigm in Racing and Other Observations of the Sport," in which horse owner and furniture store mogul Jim McIngvale will discuss his sponsorship of stallion Runhappy , and "Maintaining the Critical Mass in Racing," split into two discussions, one focusing on owners and another on bettors.
Wednesday's sessions begin with trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher reflecting on their racing experiences and award-winning careers in "A Personal Perspective of Racing's Past, Present, and Future," followed by shifting a final "Critical Mass" session on the horse population.
Other Wednesday panels include "Making the Grade in North America," a discussion of the graded stakes system; "The Digital Age of Breed Registries and Horse Identification;" "Racing and Television—Unleashing the Opportunity of Increased Exposure;" "Listening to the Racing Customer;" and "Good News Stories of Racing: A Look at the Rebirth of Racing in Virginia."
On Tuesday, The Turf Publicists of America will award trainer Mark Casse the 2019 Big Sport of Turfdom, which recognizes an individual who enhances coverage of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and racing publicists.
Approachable and forthcoming, Casse won his first Triple Crown race when War of Will took the Preakness Stakes (G1). Three weeks later, Casse won the final leg of the Triple Crown when Sir Winston scored an upset in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), beating War of Will and other leading 3-year-olds.