The Jockey Club, one of horse racing's most influential groups, wants it to have federal controls on the horse racing industry unless state racing authorities pushed on with the tighter medication rules championed by the club for several years.
Chairman of the US Jockey Club, Ogden Mills Phipps, made these comments in response to an undercover investigation by the animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the results of which were reported on March 20 by the New York Times. The inquiry by PETA resulted in racing authorities in New York and Kentucky launching investigations into top trainer Steve Asmussen and his assistant at the time, Scott Blasi.
Phipps said many of us in the thoroughbred industry are eagerly awaiting the final determination of these issues by the New York State Gaming Commission and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Phipps added he hopes that these state bodies use all the prosecutorial powers available to determine if there is evidence of animal cruelty, medication violations — and cheating. He went on to add that he was disgusted by what he saw and what was alleged in that PETA video and remarked any person abusing a horse or caught with an electronic stimulation device like the one described in the video should be banned from the sport for life.
Phipps however acknowledged that there had been some encouraging actions from racing commissions and cited a series of fines and suspensions since 2011. He said owners, trainers, veterinarians — and really anyone who makes a living in the thoroughbred industry — need to speak up any time they witness improper and dangerous treatment of horses or dishonest activity and went on to remark that we certainly shouldn’t need an animal rights organization or a major publication to identify bad actors or their bad deeds and all of us should feel a personal and professional duty to police this sport and immediately report any wrongdoing. Phipps said the Jockey Club continued to believe that horses should be respected and should compete only when free from the influence of medication. He added the club supported reforms that make up the national uniform medication program, first proposed in 2011.
The Jockey Club Chairman said while there is no doubt that some of those shown in the March 20 video deserve condemnation for their actions and their attitudes, representatives of states that have not adopted the national uniform medication program should also shoulder blame for the current state of affairs, their inaction feeds the negative perceptions of our sport and lends credence to the charge that we are incapable of broad-based reform. Phipps warned the Jockey Club would look to alternative avenues, such as federal legislation if the state-by-state approach fails to produce the required changes. He also remarked that the draft legislation proposed by some federal lawmakers involving the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is a highly attractive model and added the USADA has the experience, the knowledge and the credibility to bring much-needed integrity to our sport.